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• ^1 ^ V
W •»'■•• I •
LIFE OF GIBSON.
LONDON : PRINTKD BY
SPOTTISWOODB AND CO., NEW*STREBT SQUARE
AND PARLIAMENT STREET
a® [Kl M €D [gS® f:!!, K.Ao
.oudon: Lon^p^maTis <St C^
JOHN GIBSON, R.A.
EDITED BY LADY EASTLAKE.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
The right of Translation is reserved.
>- •* >
I HAVE been induced, by the earnest request of mutual
friends, to undertake the task and privilege of editing
the Life of Mr. Gibson. It has been an occupation
both sad and pleasant to trace the course of so original
and guileless a character, and of so valued a friend.
I am principally indebted to Mr. Henry Sandbach
of Hafodunos, to Miss Mary Lloyd of Rhagatt, to
Mr. Penry Williams, and to Miss Hosmer, of Rome,
for a large portion of the materials contained in the
following pages, and for much information during the
course of the work.
Characteristics of Gibson — His Greek Predilections — De-
votion to his Art — Indifference to Gain — History of his
Autobiography — Mrs, Henry Sandbach — Standards of
Sculpture — Education of a Sculptor . . . i
Birth and Home Education — Drawings of Geese and Horse
— Renuyval to Liverpool — Studies at Print-shop Windo^vs
— School Anecdotes — Apprenticed to a Cabinet-maker —
Resolution to be a Sculptor — Indentures transferred to
Marble Workers — Mr, William Roscoe — Cartoon —
Study of Anatomy — The d'Aguilar Family — John
Kemble — First Exhibition at Royal Academy — Removal
to London — Busts for Mr. Watson Taylor .20
Departure for Rome — Madame Pasta — Canova^s li-
berality — Introduced at Canova's Academy — Education
of a Sculptor at Rome—' TJie Slewing Shepherd'—
Commissions from Duke of Devonshire and Sir George
Beaumont — Happiness at Rome — Sir Watkin Williams
Wynn . . . . . . 44
Preference for Rome over London — Elected Member of St,
Lukis Academy — Thorwaldsen and his Danish Baroness
— Camuccini — ^Love disguised as Shepherd^ — Election
as Associate to Royal Academy — The Hunter and Dog
— The Streets of Rome — The Aurora — Michael Angelo —
Classical Costume . . . . .62
Grazia — Birth of Venus — Earthly and Heavenly Love —
At Yverdun — Illustrations of Psyche — Anecdote of
Turner-^Thunderstorm in the Alps . • • 93
Statues of Mr, Huskisson — Mrs, Huskisson — Bronze Cast-
ing at Munich — Principles of Portrait Sculpture — Public
Dinners at Liverpool and Glasgow — Commission from
the Queen — Visit to Windsor — Queen^s Statue — Colour
— Richard Wyatt — Bombardment of Rome . -113
The Concessions of Pio Nono — Emancipated Liberals —
Gibson^s Trials and Reflections — The Pope's Constitu-
tion — Reports current in Rome — The Austrian Escutcheon
— The Volunteers — Revolt of National Guard — Murder
cf Punch — Murder of Count Rossi — The Little Waiter
— The Prohibited Knife — The Madman — Garibaldi —
The French within sight of Rome — GibsotCs relreai . 135
Pio Nonds return to Rome — Walk through the Sculpture
Galleries of the Vatican — Gallery of the Capitol — Sculp-
ture in the Villa Ludovisi — Bernini . . .168
Illness and Death of Mr, Benjamin Gibson — Death of
Mrs, Sandhach . . .194
Prospects of high-class Sculpture in England — A Roman
Education — Proceedings at Academy of St. Luke — Group
of the Queen — Statue of Venus — Gibson as Pygmalion
— Colour — Statue of Pandora — of Bacchus — Portrait
Statue Coloured — Exhibition of 1862 — Memorial to
Prince Consort . . .201
GibsorCs Pupil^ Miss Hosmer — His Railway and other
Adventures — Analysis of his Art — His wonderfully
executed Drawings — Summary of his Character — Illness
— Death — Last Letter; to Lady Eastlake — Will in
favour of Royal Academy — Monuments erected to him —
Portraits of him , .226
Catalogue of his Works .... 249
Characteristics of Gibson — His Greek Predilections — Devotion to
his Art — Indifference to Gain — History of his Autobiography — ■
Mrs, Henry Sandbach — Standards of Sculpture — Education
of a Sculptor,
IT is usual to sum up the character of a man
towards the close of his biography, and
this custom will not perhaps be entirely departed
from here; but, in the Life now about to be
offered to the public, it is expedient to give the
general reader some clue to the character, before
introducing him to the individual. The character
of * John Gibson, Sculptor, Rome ' — a simple ad-
dress well known to a large circle — is one in which
society as it is, and must be constituted, is slow to
believe. We are ready to acknowledge superiority
2 Life of John Gibson.
when shown in brilliant abilities, and feats of in-
tellectual strength, but we smile incredulously
when told of one who has less of the leaven of
our common nature than we know to be in our-
selves. But this was simply and truly the case
with Gibson, and it will materially assist the
reader s first impressions of the coming pages, if
he can be prevailed upon to start with this belief.
There is no word more overused, and more
falsely used, in modern parlance than the word
* Genius.' It is dealt out right and left to every
form of art, science, and success, with a frequency
which is alone a sufficient proof of its misapplica-
tion. We do not presume to take up the reader's
time with a definition of this term, but some con-
ception of what we believe it to mean, may be
superficially expressed in the assertion that genius
resides more in the qualities of the mind, than in
the powers of the brain. Admitting this, there
follows, therefore, a certain moral consistency in
the general character of a genius, which is some-
times wanting in the man of talent. The genius
may be a thorough simpleton in the affairs of this
world, and a dunce in matters which the rest of us
find it very easy to acquire; but these incapacities,
which we begin by treating as follies or shams, we
His Genuine Simplicity. 3
end, when convinced of their real source and
nature (and who was not so convinced in Gibson's
case ?) by respecting with a feeling which is good
for ourselves. We all, even the most guileful
among us, love the sacred simplicity of childhood,
and know that this quality will depart with riper
years, to be replaced by others less attractive, but
more needful for the battle of life. But Gibson,
in this respect, remained a child, never exchanging
his guileless simplicity for a maturer, but less pure
wisdom. His estimate of mankind was amusing
—no one was more easily imposed upon by man,
and still more so by woman. Indeed, the victory
was too easy for many to attempt it; his very
simplicity protected him. Yet he saw readily
into characters of analogous sincerity with his
own, and had very sweeping definitions for those
which were too glaringly the reverse. Living at
Rome in a moral atmosphere the most opposite to
that within his own breast, he would thus occa-
sionally deliver his soul : * The sons of Adam are
very bad animals — the beasts would be as bad as
Christians if they could speak.' (Letter to Miss
Parkes, June 19, 1849.)
Thus far Gibson's wisdom was of a very childlike
type. In matters of principle, however, in single-
4 * Life of yokn Gibson.
hearted, courageous truthfulness, in indomitable
power of resolution, and in a certain dignity of
self-respect, no one ever arrived more fully at man's
estate — in generous recognition of the merits of
others, in ready forgiveness of injuries, few will
attain a higher standard. That he enjoyed entire
immunity from envy or jealousy is what we would
fain accept as the sine qua non with all great artists,
but that he was equally delivered from irritability
of nerve or temper is what cannot always be
asserted of the votaries of the arts. But Gibson
emphatically possessed his soul in patience and
peace. He was habitually serene in temperament,
like his own statues in repose ; though there was
fire and passion beneath, as some of his works
might also exemplify. But though capable of
ardent affection, his love for his art asserted its
supremacy, and (not altogether perhaps without
an occasional struggle) took the place of all other
sources of happiness. He passed through life
therefore with few cares, and, beyond his two
brothers, with no domestic ties ; though no man
was ever the object of truer friendships and purer
Gibson especially possessed that characteristic
of genius which bends circumstances to itself.
His Social Position, 5
but which does not return the compliment. It
mattered not where he was — in the society of
high or low, under the influences of foreign or
English life— he was always the same. Those
who knew him, knew what to expect; always
found it, and always loved it more and more. To
$uch his friendship was a source of mutual in-
terest ; to those who survive him his memory is a
Yet, though repudiating the power of external
influences, in the common sense, over his grand,
normal nature, there is no doubt that he was
fortunate in his honest, lowly birth, and early home
training — ^fortunate in the very disadvantages, so
called, of poverty and position, which, rightly
used, are the surest roads to distinction and suc-
cess. What inclined an obscure lad, — ushered into
the world under circumstances apparently the most
adverse (his father was a market gardener), — to
that love of art which culminated in a devotion
to the abstract forms of Ideal Beauty — what
affinity there was between a poor Welsh boy,
born at the close of the eighteenth century,
speaking in his early years only Welsh, and pre-
destined, it would seem, to no higher lot than the
tillage of the earth — what affinity there was be-
6 Life of yohn Gibson.
tween him and that ancient Greek mind, no longer
brought forth even on its own soil — is a question
which it is fruitless to ask. Genius, in whatever
form, is without descent, a new creation, admitting
of no solution, not traceable, save as the will of
the Creator. Yet, though foremost in that classic
predilection, Gibson was not alone in it. It ran
like a vein through the family. Both his brothers,
Solomon and Benjamin, followed him from afar in
the taste for sculpture. The younger — ' Mr. Ben,'
as Gibson always called him — devoted also his
energies to the study of the classic languages, and,
living for many years with the great sculptor at
Rome, was the ready interpreter of those ancient
oracles whence John Gibson drew constant in-
spiration. Solomon Gibson, the other brother,
was also a devourer of books, but there was an
absence of purpose in the direction of his studies,
and he passed through life, a strange and useless,
though not a commonplace man, chiefly dependant
on the bounty of the object of these memoirs.
Gibson's character has been, in one respect, mis-
taken by some who knew him little, and looked
upon him from a conventional point of view. He
has been represented as fond of money. We meet
this supposition at once, and without reserve.
His Indifference to Money. 7
Where a man's life was as clear as daylight, this
was perhaps the only point on which there could
well be any diversity of opinion. That he was
thought to love money by some, was simply a
conclusion from his not loving to spend it in their
way. But temperaments like Gibson's have little
use for money in the form that tells in the world.
He had been brought up in habits of plainness
and frugality, and his heart was so simple and his
wants so few that he was scarcely conscious that
there was any self-denial in them. He cared not
what he ate or drank — his tailor's bill cost him
very little — his ruminations on the Greeks cost
him nothing. He gave no dinners, and set his
name to few public subscriptions. In truth, he
cared too little about money, and, from that very
reason, was indifferent to money s worth. He
hardly knew what he possessed, and considered
some mercantile friends exceedingly kind for keep-
ing his earnings, to the amount of many thousands,
in their hands, and allowing him three per cent
Had he given to financial matters the mere average
amount of thought, he might easily and legiti-
mately have trebled or quadrupled his fortune.
He might have done as other sculptors did, and
do (at least, in Rome), and have kept a supply of
8 Life of John Gibson.
replicas of his most popular works all ready in his
studio, for sale to those who like to come, to see,
and to carry away — such replicas representing
literally so much ready m6ney to a sculptor of
established fame. But Gibson refrained from
such practices ; not from abstinence, not from
overstrained principle, not because he thought
them wrong in others; but simply because his
thoughts never travelled in the money-getting
direction. Where his treasure was, there was his
heart, and whoever might visit his studio, what-
ever it might contain, Gibson was always absorbed
in one subject, and that was the particular work,
or part of the work — were it but the turn of
a corner of drapery — ^which was then under his
modelling hands. Time was nothing to him — he
was long and fastidious ; sometimes, as with his
Hope, recommencing a statue entirely de novo.
His pupil. Miss Hosmer, when modelling her
Medusa head, expressed to him her shame at
having been so long about it Gibson said,
* Always try to do the best you can. Never mind
how long you are upon a work — no. No one will
ask how long you have been except fools ; you
don't care what fools think/ His friends were
even anxious lest he should not provide sufficiently
His Liberality. 9
for his latter days. In his own simple, quaint
words, the following conversation passed between
himself and one superficially interested in his
welfare. * Mr. said, " I hope you are getting
rich, for, after all, a man should look to that.
Fame is such an uncertain thing, and people are
so undecided about it : to-day one man is the
fashion, to-morrow another, and so on." I replied,
'* What you say is too true. It is owing to the
ignorance of the patrons of art, who are more rich
than knowing on the subject of art. But the
productions of a man of real talent, refined by
cultivation and taste upon the unchangeable (un-
fashionable) laws of Nature, are the most likely to
become fashionable hereafter. The mere money-
making artist gets rich, lives, dies, and there's an
end of him." I did not tell Mr. whether I
was rich or no.' (Letter to Mrs. Sandbach, Oct
So much for his negative indifference to gain —
his positive generosity was equally as indubitable.
He paid his men not only liberally but lavishly,
making them frequent presents. His open-handed
unquestioning dealings in a few mercantile matters
of art astonished those accustomed to the sharp
practice of the present day. He allowed his
lo Life of John Gibson,
brother Solomon much more than he spent on
himself, and he was ever ready to help the
unfortunate, or to be imposed upon by the de-
It is a pure and beautiful, and, above all, a
happy life to dwell on, without one dark corner to
conceal — the very beau ideal of the artist-career
— serene and uneventful, yet forming a consistent
whole in which the reader will rather find repose
than excitement. Gibson always saw his way
straight on — was never irresolute — his aim at
excellence was without self-interest; his desire
for lasting fame at no expense of peace. And he
had the happiness of knowing himself to be the
right man in the right place. For he spent his
life in the only spot which he acknowledged as
the sculptor's true home; yet not doing, in one
respect, as the Romans are supposed to do, for he
kept aloof from politics and intrigues ; ever com-
muning with what he felt to be the True and the
Beautiful, and serving Art for her own sake only.
And in his own language he thus recorded how
richly she rewarded her votary : * In my art what
do I feel ? what do I encounter ? — happiness :
love which does not depress me, difficulties
which I do not fear, resolutions which never
His Autobiography. 1 1
abate, flights which carry me above the crowd,
ambition which tramples no one down.' (Letter to
Mrs. Sandbach, January 25, 1842.)
In attempting to present the Life of John
Gibson to the world I have been especially
anxious that he should speak for himself His
thoughts and modes of expression (however lov-
ingly mimicked by a few joyous friends) are such
as none but he could furnish — the language of
an Original, who never learned to spell ! Ample
materials fortunately exist, both in his letters to
friends and in a fragmentary autobiography, on
which I shall largely draw. The history of this
autobiography is in itself interesting, and intro-
duces us to a lady who played a conspicuous part
in the few but deep influences which swayed the
mind of the sculptor, and to whom the tribute to
his art, just quoted, was addressed.
In 1838-9 — Gibson was then forty-eight years
of age, and attaining the zenith of his activity —
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sandbach, of Liverpool,
spent the winter at Rome. Mrs. Sandbach, herself
not unknown to fame,* united all that most com-
mands admiration and respect. She was young,
* Author of Aurora^ Giuliano d^ Medici^ &c.
12 Life of John Gibson.
enthusiastic, gentle, and joyous, with a beauty of
figure and face peculiarly her own, — as engaging
as it was intellectual — with gifts of genius (and
never was that word more rightly applied) which
moved harmoniously in subjection to duty and
decorum — shedding gladness around her. Thus
endowed, she was peculiarly fitted to enthral the
better part of every intelligent man, and to be
the friend and safe inspiration of kindred genius.
Withal, she was the granddaughter of William
Roscoe, of Liverpool — Gibbon s first patron — and
inheritor of the intellect and culture associated
with that name. Between her and Gibson ensued
that class of tender friendship which is the highest
compliment man and woman can pay each other.
We have been favoured with the perusal of
Gibson's letters to this gifted lady, and with the
permission to extract from them. To Mrs. Sand-
bach's affectionate admiration the first idea of the
autobiography was owing. She felt, as all who ap-
preciated Gibson felt, that the man was as much
above the comprehension of the many as his
works ; and in urging him to commit to paper the
story of his simple and diligent life, she foresaw
that the sculptor and his art would alike rise in
estimation. Traces of her urgency in this respect
Mrs. Henry Sandbach. 1 3
occur as early as 1841 ; combated by him with
modesty. * I suppose I njust begin the task which
you have given me, which is to take up myself.
But I have not done works of sufficient impor-
tance to authorise my writing an account of myself.
It is female partiality desires it'
Subsequently, in 185 1, on occasion of a visit by
Gibson to Hafodunos, Mr. Sandbach's country
seat, the commencement of the biography was
penned by her hand from his dictation. It is
prefaced by observations on his character, in which
she . dwells on that divine quality of aspiration,
* Higher still, and higher,* which was the motto of
his studio, and the star which led him on in the
worship pf the highest sculptural and moral per-
fection. To this worship Mrs. Sandbach's influ-
ence gave ever fresh stimulus and direction. The
fragment thus penned by her, and afterwards
chiefly embodied in a later manuscript, ends
abruptly with this note. * Here, I regret to say, our
conversations were broken off — Gibson's depar-
ture for Rome, and the death of his brother (' Mr.
Ben ') changed the bright aspect of our meetings.
And now I much fear that ill health on my part
may prevent my pursuing a subject to which I
have so long looked forward with hope and
14 Life of John Gibson.
pleasure. Margaret Sandbach, October, 1851/
She died, after great suffering, in 1852 !
There is no doubt that Gibson was under pro-
mise to Mrs. Sandbach to carry on the thread of
the narrative. In this he was, some years later,
greatly encouraged and assisted by a gentleman
of great scholarship and accomplishments, long
resident in Rome, Mr. Robert Hay.^ By his
advice Gibson was induced to note down daily
some portion of his reminiscences, and to submit
the result to him at the close of every week. For
this purpose the sculptor and his pupil. Miss
Hosmer (who came to Rome during the winter of
1852-3), dined with Mr. Hay every Saturday.
After dinner, Mr. Hay, then nearly blind, would
walk up and down the room, listening attentively
to the week's work, expressing his interest, making
his criticisms, and carefully following the writer s
intention through sentences not always composed
according to the laws of syntax ; and, while leading
Gibson adroitly to some paraphrase which made
his meaning more clear, never interposing any
suggestion that would make the style less his own.
These Saturday evenings continued for three
* Formerly private secretary to the Duke of Wellington.
A Sculptors Education, 1 5
years, carrying the narrative up to 1859, where it
We may add that one principal motive which
induced Gibson to pen these reminiscences was
the desire to impress upon his English readers the
necessity of a Roman education for the student in
sculpture. On this point he was an anxious and
zealous advocate, ever drawing from his own ex-
perience, and from the character of most of the
later public monuments in London, fresh argu-
ments for a radical reform in the direction of
English taste and the training of English talent.
He was brought, however unavailingly, more than
once into communication with the English govern-
ment on this point.
The subject of sculpture, as more or less of all
art, is one on which it is peculiarly difficult for a
practical, hardworking, hurried, journal-led public
to reason. It requires a class oi education for
which they have few opportunities and small occa-
sion, and for which they show their inaptitude at
the outset by thinking all education superfluous.
At the same time sculpture has a superficial side
which peculiarly invites superficial judgment. For
this art has two aspects — the one very low, the
other supremely high. To fashion a lump of clay
1 6 Life of yohn Gibson,
into the likeness of a solid object is a mighty easy
manufacture — to- know the conditions, capacities
and limits of true style in sculpture is very high
art. The multitude are caught by the mere
imitation of familiar things, and give praise and
encouragement to that of which they know not the
utter facility. The appreciation of real plastic
excellence requires a rare and peculiar training
upon a naturally elevated feeling, and is, therefore,
confined to the very few. The charm of antique
sculpture and that of classic scholarship are pretty
much on the same level ; both are equally incom-
prehensible to the ignorant. Of five hundred
averagely educated men and women in society
there are not five who really and intelligently do
homage to the transcendent sublimity of the Elgin
marbles. Nevertheless four-fifths, at least, of that
five hundred consider themselves qualified, with-
out any standard of taste, to criticise what is fine,
and admire what is wretched. The sculptor s true
public, like the subjects of his art, is and must
be very limited in extent. There is a prevalent
feeling abroad that the excellencies handed down
to us in the works of the old masters — whether
sculptors or painters, Greek or Italian — are lifeless
conventions, from which it is a merit to depart as
Standards of Sculpture. 1 7
widely as possible. As regards the art of painting,
such contempt for authority, such aims at novelty,
are less objectionable. In Gibson s own words,
in a letter to Mr. Sandbach, * Sculpture is more
calculated to improve and refine the taste than
pictures are, because it is an art which requires
chaste composition, beauty and correctness of form,
and high sentiment — painting, on the other hand,
admits of a far greater range, it allows the less
beautiful and the familiar.' Though, therefore,
the practice of the great painters of various bygone
schools will scarcely be equalled, far less improved
upon, yet novelties in subjects are the natural
growth of every day. But the standards of sculp-
ture as regards subject, treatment, and execution
have been defined by works of an excellence which
modern ages can never reach, and which it is only
a wonder that any age should have attained. An-
swering a friend who suggested a poetical image
as a subject, Gibson says, * There are poetical
pictures produced by description which are not so
clear when represented in our art When an artist
has learned the limits of his art he is far advanced.'
Novelties in sculpture he therefore regarded rather
as signs of ignorance than of genius, and earnestly
1 8 Life ofyohn Gibson.
lifted up his voice against them. He maintained
that the danger of aiming at novelty, or of falling
into feebleness, were best counteracted by an
education at Rome, under the shadow of antique
examples, and of the then best living votaries.
And Gibson was far from singular in that respect.
Flaxman studied seven years in Rome, and urged
all young English students to do the same. Thor-
waldsen dated his birth from March 8, 1797 — the
day he first entered Rome. It would seem as if
the northern nature combined most readily with
the spirit of antique art Canova, the soft, and
graceful Venetian, however exquisite in finish and
sometimes in sentiment, never attained that feeling
for force and simplicity which distinguishes Flax-
man, Thorwaldsen, and Gibson. But at the same
time he urged his scholars to follow his precepts
more than his practice — to look at the objects con-
tained in the Vatican, and at the figures living in
the streets, rather than at those produced in his
The question of the true mode of educating a
sculptor is mentioned so powerfully and urgently
both in the reminiscences and correspondence
of Gibson, that, unless admitted fully into the
His Simple Annals. 19
following pages, one of his chief wishes would
remain unfulfilled. We will now let him speak for
himself. There are few hearts which will not see
much that is touching and edifying in these simple
20 Life of fohn Gibson.
Birth and Home Education — Drawing of Geese and Horse —
Removal to Liverpool — Studies at Print-shop Windows — School
Anecdotes — Apprenticed to a Cabinet-maker — Resolution to be
a Sculptor — Indentures transferred to Marble Workers — Mr,
William Roscoe — Cartoon — Study of Anatomy — Thed^Aguilar
Family— John Kemble — First Exhibition at Royal Academy —
Removal to London — Busts for Mr, Watson Taylor,
^ T T IS the love of my art and the desire of
•*- imparting to the young the experience
which I have gained in the course of a long period
which induce me to record a few incidents in my
life, and especially to state all concerning my
studies during a residence of upwards of forty
years at Rome.
* I will begin from my earliest days to recount
what my memory has retained.
* Conway, North Wales, is greatly admired for
the beauty of its scenery. It was there, near the
castle, I was born in the year 1 790, and christened
in the parish church."^* My father and mother were
* Gibson may be excused for a slight inaccuracy as to the place
of his birth. He was born at Gyffin, a small hamlet near Conway,
but christened in Conway Church. His parents came to live near
Conway Castle when he was an infant.
Home Education. 2 1
Welsh, and it was Welsh we spoke always.
Speaking English was a labour to us. My father
was a poor man, truly honest ; my mother was an
excellent woman, passionate and strongmind^d ;
she ruled my father always, and continued to
govern us all as long as she lived.
* I owe much to my mother s early instruction
in truth and honesty. Lying, stealing, and drun-
kenness were crimes of which she impressed me
with the utmost horror and disgust. A poor boy,
engaged in carrying a gentleman's letter-bag in
our neighbourhood, stole a letter with money in it
I remember listening to the conversation of my
father and mother on this subject ; the grief and
disgrace they painted in their description of the
theft made a great impression on me. I remember
also well a circumstance which was of the greatest
importance to me, and ever inspired me with
gratitude to my mother. One day I entered our
home eating a cake ; my mother's quick eye fell
upon it — she observed too that I made some
attempt at concealment — so she questioned me.
"Who gave you that?" I answered, "The
woman in the street who sells cakes." She went
to the corner of the room, where a rod was kept,
then took me by the hand and led me to the woman.
22 Life of yohn Gibson.
*' Did you give this little boy a cake?" " No."
Whereupon the rod was vigorously applied, In
the presence of the people in the street who were
looking on. My distress was great At evening
prayers my father, who had been informed of my
disgrace, dwelt in a solemn manner on the sin I
had committed — the great crime of theft and lies.
That was my first theft, and my last
' I will now relate my artistic beginnings. When
about seven years old I began to admire the signs
painted over alehouses, constantly gazing up at
them with great admiration. One day I made my
first attempt to draw from nature. My attention
had been frequently attracted to a pretty scene — it
was a line of geese, sailing upon the smooth glassy
water. I drew the geese upon my father's casting
slate, all in procession, every one in profile. When
my father looked at my performance he smiled,
but when my mother cast her eyes upon it she
praised me, and said, " Indeed, Jack, this is very
like the geese."
* I rubbed out that drawing, and, after dwelling
upon the geese again, I drew them upon a larger
scale, one behind the other, and again my mother
praised me. Then I produced the same com-
position a third time, adding more geese, but
First Attempts to Draw. 23
nothing new in the treatment Then my mother
thought she had had enough of the geese, and
said, " Suppose you change the subject, and try
to draw a horse." After gazing long and often
upon a horse, at last I ventured to commit him to
the slate. I drew him in profile, all by memory.
This effort delighted my mother still more. I
stuck to the horse, as I had done to the geese,
always repeating the same view, till my mother
had had enough of that too. " Now, Jack," she
said, " put a man upon his back." I went out,
and carefully watched men en horseback, and,
returning home, produced an equestrian figure. I
never thought of copying from the object itself, but
always, after looking at it, drew from recollection.
' When I was nine years of age my father
decided to join some Welsh people and emigrate
to America. We arrived therefore at Liverpool
to embark for the United States. But when my
mother saw the great ships in the docks, she
formed the most determined resolution never to
put her foot in one of them. Accordingly my
father was obliged to abandon his intention and
settle down in Liverpool. A short time after I
was put to a school there.
' My attention was now drawn to the windows
24 Life of y ohn Gibson.
of the print shops, and daily did I return to gaze
with wonder and admiration at the engravings
exhibited in them. Soon I began to draw them.
The following was my plan, for I had no money
to purchase a print I fixed all my attention upon
one figure only, and, when it was well impressed
on my mind, I hastened home and there sketched
down the general action — ^then returned again and
again to the shop window, and corrected my copy
till it was finished. I continued this sort of prac-
tice for long — of course in the hours out of
school — and this habit strengthened my memory
wonderfully, so that I have throughout life re-
tained the power, so important to an artist, of
drawing from recollection. Whenever I have
remarked any momentary action, whether in the
street or in a drawing-room, I have been able, by
impressing it on my mind at the moment, to
sketch it a month after.
* In the course of time I began to sell my
drawings to the boys at school, which enabled me
to purchase paper and colours. I made no profit,
for my prices were small. There was a very
amiable boy who was fond of me, and who was
so amiable as always to admire my drawings.
His father had presented him with a new prayer-
Frontispiece to Prayer Book, 2 5
book, beautifully bound ; this gift, with sixpence
from his mother, was for good conduct at school.
The boy said to me, " Gibson, you know how
much I like your drawings ; if you will make me
one, in colours, for the new prayer-book, I will
give you the sixpence." At that time there was
a fine print of Napoleon crossing the Alps, from
David's picture, in one of the shop windows,
which I had already copied in my peculiar way.
I showed my copy to my patron ; he was charmed,
and commissioned me to repeat the subject as a
frontispiece to his prayer-book ! It was executed
in bright colours, and he paid me the sixpence —
the largest sum I had yet received for a work of
* I had been warned by my schoolmaster not to
draw during school hours. Notwithstanding this
prohibition, I was discovered one day, by the sen-
tinel making his rounds, drawing at the desk.
He shouted out, ** Gibson is drawing ! " the
master thundered in return, ** Bring Gibson up ! "
the sentinel said to me, " Obey ! " and took me by
the arm. I resisted violently. The master then
ordered out reinforcements, and I soon received a
castigation not to be forgotten — and' I never drew
again in scliool.
26 Life of y ohn Gibson.
' There was a stationer s shop in Church Street,
kept by Mr. Tourmeau. It was there I purchased
my paper and colours. One day Mr. Tourmeau
said to me, '* My lad, you are a frequent customer ;
I suppose you are a painter ? " I answered with
infinite self-consequence, " Yes, sir, I paint." He
then told me to bring my drawings, and after
saying something encouraging, asked me if I had
ever seen an Academy drawing. I did not know
what an Academy drawing meant ! The next
day, for the first time, I saw drawings from the
nude on coloured paper, in black and white chalk,
done at the Royal Academy by Mr. Tourmeau.
He kindly lent them to me to copy, and when I
had made some progress, he added some small
plaster casts from the antique, and I drew from
them under his generous instructions.
' The time arrived when I was to be put to
some mode of earning my bread. The portrait
and miniature painters required a premium with a
pupil, which my father could not afford to give.
At the age of fourteen I was bound apprentice
to Messrs. Southwell and Wilson, cabinet-makers.
After remaining there one year I became quite
disgusted with my employment, and succeeded in
persuading my masters to change my indenture
Bound Apprentice. 2 7
and bind me to wood-carving — that is, to orna-
menting furniture. I was delighted at first with
this occupation, and during my home hours kept
up my practice of carving from casts. When I
had been at the wood-carving for nearly a year I
became acquainted with a person from London
who was a flower-carver in marble : his works
enchanted me, and I became greatly excited. He
presented me to Messrs. Francis, who had marble
works on Brownlow Hill. They employed a
Prussian workman to model and execute small
figures — his name was Liige — afterwards he be-
came the head workman to Sir Francis Chantrey.
No words can give an idea of the impression made
on me by the models and works I saw there. In
my leisure hours during the second year of my
apprenticeship I modelled in clay, copying what
casts I could procure. I soon began to feel the
greatest contempt for my line of wood-carving,
and I became very melancholy. One day I ven-
tured to ask leave of Mr. Francis to copy in clay
a small head of Bacchus by Mr. Llige, which
enchanted me with its beauty. When finished I
brought my copy with the original to show Mr.
Francis. He confessed that the copy was so exact
that he could hardly distinguish one from the other.
28 Life of John Gibson.
But, at the same time, he gave me to understand
that, having paid a large price to the Prussian for
all the models in his place, he could not allow
them to be copied, and that he should lend me
no more. Such an unexpected reverse of fortune
fell upon my ardent soul like the chill of death. I
left him in unutterable depression of spirits. I
told all my sad story to the person who had intro-
duced me to Mr. Francis. At that time I had
also made my first attempt in marble ; it was a
small head of Mercury, which I afterwards pre-
sented to Mrs. Vose, wife of a physician in Liver-
* As Mr. Francis praised this attempt, the idea
came into my mind to try and induce him to pur-
chase my indenture from the cabinet-makers, and
to serve the remainder of my seven years in the
practice of sculpture. But my cabinet-makers
refused to part with me on any terms ; I was, they
said, the most industrious lad they ever had ; they
even refused an offer of seventy pounds from the
Messrs. Francis to give me up. I then fell upon
a plan of emancipating myself I continued to
attend regularly at the working hours, but I did
no work. They remonstrated with me in vain —
praised my former industry, appealed to my grati-
Transfer of Indentures. 29
tude for kindness; reminded me that they had
often made me presents. I admitted that it was
all true. They then told me that an apprentice
might be imprisoned for neglecting his duty. I
admitted that too. But my mind was made up —
a sculptor and not a cabinet-maker I would be.
" I will fight for it," said I to myself, "and rather
serve the remaining years in prison than continue
at this disgusting wood-carving."
' Several days elapsed, and I kept up the fight,
doing scarcely any work, though always regularly
at my post At length my master flew into a pas-
sion, called me an ungrateful scoundrel, and gave
me a blow on the side of my head. It was with
his open hand — not violently. I kept myself calm,
and said with quiet determination, " I am quite
prepared to go before the magistrate ; I have no-
thing to say in my defence ; I have made up my
mind to stay in prison — yes — for years." With so
inflexible a martyr there was nothing to be done.
At length the cabinet-makers were persuaded to
accept the seventy pounds, and the happy day
arrived when I found myself entered as an appren-
tice for sculpture to the Messrs. Francis.
* Now I was truly happy — modelling, drawing,
and executing works in marble. After some
30 Life of y ohn Gibson,
months there came a tall, magnificent-looking old
gentleman to the workshop ; his hair was white as
snow, aquiline nose, thick brows ; and his manner
was most benevolent It was William Roscoe.
The object of his visit was to order a chimney-
piece for his library at AUerton. My models and
numerous drawings were soon placed before him,
and he said many encouraging things to me. In
a few days Mr. Roscoe returned, and settled with
my master about the chimney-piece ; then turning
to me, he said he wished me to make a basso-
rilievo for the centre — not in marble, but in baked
clay (terra cotta) — from a print which he brought
with him. He added, " This print is of great
value ; it is by Marc Antonio, from Raphael." It
represented Alexander ordering Homer s " Iliad "
to be placed in the casket taken from Darius — an
excellent choice of subject for a library. The
original fresco is in the Vatican, painted in chiaro-
scuro. I executed the work, which gave satisfac-
tion, and it is preserved at this time in the Liver-
pool Institution. It is in a small room there, and
over it is a portrait of Mr. Roscoe, and also one of
myself painted at Rome by the late Mr. Geddes.
' Mr. Roscoe showed me great kindness, and I
was invited once a week to AUerton — there he
William Roscoe, 3 r
opened all his portfolios, containing engravings
from the old masters, and original drawings for
which he had paid great sums. Some of these
fine drawings he advised me to copy, so that I
might learn to sketch in the same masterly way.
I imitated them as closely as I could — some
were in red chalk, others in pen and bistre. I
also copied a few of Luca Cambiasi's bold reed
* Mr. Roscoe was a man of true taste. When I
reflect on the past I often wonder at the accurate
judgment he had acquired, when the minds of so
many in England were astray about sculpture.
Every design I now made was laid before him for
his advice. The first thing he considered was
whether the subject was expressed simply and
clearly, whether the figures moved and acted
naturally, with truth of character, and just expres-
sion. Also he had great discrimination as to the
selection of subjects.
* Having thus free access to Mr. Roscoe s fine
collections, I became well acquainted with the in-
ventions of Michael Angelo and Raphael, and the
genius of the former began to have an influence
over me. Before I was nineteen I began to think
of a large cartoon. The subject was the fall of
32 Life of John Gibson,
Satan and his angels. I first drew the design
on a small scale, which went through numerous
changes before I was satisfied. It included several
groups and single figures foreshortened in various
ways, and falling in every direction I could think
of, and was executed in light and shade with pen
and bistre. My mode of proceeding was this : I
modelled the principal groups and figures in clay
and hung them up with a string ; then taking the
view I wanted, I got them in as far as possible
from nature, and traced the drawing upon the
cartoon until the design was complete. The upper
figures were lighted naturally from above, and
for the lower groups, supposed to be lighted by
the flames of hell, I placed a lamp beneath my
clay models, and thus got a correct and beautiful
effect This laborious early performance is also
favoured with a place in the Liverpool Institution.
' About the same time I made some designs
from Dante — one represents a figure nearly life
size, tormented by a serpent. The action is diffi-
cult, and I studied every part of it from nature.
It is highly finished in black chalk. The cartoon
is in the possession of Mr. Mayer, a goldsmith at
Liverpool. When after an absence of twenty-
seven years from England I saw these early works
Early Works. 33
again, I felt surprised that I could have done them
in a town where there was no Academy, and no
real art going on. For Mr. Francis, my new
master, was no artist, nor had he anyone in his
workshop who could teach me my profession, for
he had dismissed the Prussian and put me in his
place. He paid me six shillings a week, but he
received good prices for my works/
To such works also the master gave his own
name. For instance, in Sefton Church, seven
miles from Liverpool, there is a bas-relief of
considerable power, representing Mr. Blundell
distributing alms, which has always been tradi-
tionally assigned to a sculptor of the name of
Francis. Gibson happened to visit this church
late in life, in the company of friends, and recog^
nised a performance of his own. Many such
are doubtless scattered about Liverpool and the
neighbourhood under the name of Francis. To
continue the biography.
* I should have mentioned that before this time
Mr. Roscoe had urged upon me the study of
anatomy from the subject itself Knowing what
an anatomist Michael Angelo was, I was most
eager to begin. Dr. Vose of Liverpool was giving
lectures on anatomy to young surgeons at that
34 Life of John Gibson.
time, and he generously admitted me into his
school gratis. With his instruction, and close
devotion to the dissecting-room, I became well
versed in the construction of the human body, and
could detect at a glance any anatomical error in a
work of art
* My kind patron Mr. Roscoe gave me serious
advice from time to time as to the course necessary
to become a sculptor. He used to say, " No one
can be a greater admirer of Michael Angelo than
I am ; but, if you are to be a sculptor, I must
remind you that there is but one road to excellence,
and that is the road trodden for you by the Greeks,
who carried the art to the highest perfection.
Michael Angelo with all his powerful genius missed
the purity of the Greeks. But it is their principles
established from Nature which you should endea-
vour to imbibe. The works of the ancients will
teach you how to select the scattered beauties
displayed in Nature. The Greek statue is Nature
in the abstract, therefore when we contemplate
those sublime works we feel elevated.'*
* When I returned to England after an absence
of twenty-seven years, and saw the works of British
sculptors in London, I perceived that the influence
of English painters had been injurious to them,
The cTAguilar Family. 35
leading them from a pure and elevated style to a
soft, smooth prettiness, and pictorial treatment in
attitude and arrangement which are not adapted
for marble. If they had followed such advice as
I received from Mr. Roscoe their works would
have acquired a higher character and aim.
' I began now to study all casts, gems, and
prints from the antique that I could get at, and
the result was that I modelled a Psyche, life size,
under these new impressions.* She was repre-
sented admiring a butterfly, and this attempt was
greatly approved. But I could not pursue the
study of the Beautiful without the participation of
women. And this leads me to speak of a family
with whom I then became acquainted. The family
of Mr. Solomon d'Aguilar was one of the most
polished in Liverpool. Mrs. d'Aguilar was the
handsomest old lady I ever saw in my life ; she
had been a celebrated beauty. The late General
d'Aguilar was their son, and they had two
daughters, Mrs. Lawrence and Mrs. Robinson.'
The d'Aguilar family, by their hospitality and
love of art, and by that gift of beauty to which
Gibson was ever impressionable, played a con-
* Exhibited at the first exhibition of modern works of art
opened at Liverpool.
36 Life of yohn Gibson.
spicuous part in his early life. With Mrs. Law-
rence Gibson kept up an occasional correspondence,
from which we shall make extracts further on.
But his warmest friendship was contracted with
Mrs. Robinson, who was a lady of great personal
charms, and taste for the arts. She devoted her-
self to the cultivation of Gibson's mind, making
him acquainted with standard works in poetry,
and leading him to a class of reading which greatly
contributed to enrich his ideas. This lady died
* John Kemble used to come to Liverpool, and
the d'Aguilars were his great friends. They
brought him to see my works, and I felt much
encouraged by all he said. He greatly admired a
small figure of a seated Mercury which my brother
Solomon was then modelling, and I can truly say
that it was a remarkable work for a boy of sixteen.
The figure is sitting, but you feel that Mercury
will be up in a moment and lost in the skies.
When the late Lord Colbome was in Holland he
observed this little figure in bronze in a curiosity
shop ; but the shopman could not tell him who
the author was, or where it had been cast. He
purchased it at once. Dining with his Lordship
in 185 1 he showed me the Mercury, and I told
yohn Kemble. 37
him It was by my brother, and all about how John
Kemble had admired it when still in the clay.
'John Kemble, then performing in Liverpool,
was requested by the d'Aguilars to sit to me for
a small bust. I went to his lodgings for that
purpose. As he sat, he held a looking-glass in his
hand, looking at his own face and correcting me.
He approved much of the bust, and so did Mrs.
Siddons to whom he subsequently presented me,
and so also did Sir Thos. Lawrence. I sold
many casts of it to his numerous admirers. Mine
is the only bust modelled from that great actor.
During these sittings John Kemble conversed
with me very freely and very kindly. I told him
how much his acting and his statue-like appearance
on the stage had impressed me — his agility of
action in RoUa, and his sedate grandeur in Cato.
I confessed that at times when witnessing pathetic
parts I was harassed by my feelings, and yet
ashamed of giving way to them. '* Ah ! my boy,"
he said, " never contend with your feelings. Better
give way." One day speaking of expression he
said that genius is expressed by the eye, feeling
by the large dilating nostril, and temper by the
mouth. I observed as he spoke that his own
countenance illustrated this. He was a magnificent
38 Life of John Gibson,
man, with the grandest head I ever saw, a striking
figure, and wonderfully expressive face.
' As time advanced Mr. Roscoe consulted with
his friends as to some plan of sending me to Rome,
for he looked upon the Eternal City as the great
University of Sculpture, both on account of its
splendid collections, and of the great assemblage
of artists from all parts of Europe. Such sug-
gestions from him inflamed my soul with ambition.
Rome was ever in my thoughts, and I became
harassed with anxiety, often sleepless. " Mother,"
said I, ** last night I dreamt a dream (she could
interpret dreams) — I dreamt that I was wandering
in solitary meditation, when a great eagle darted
down upon me, and took me up in the air. Higher
and higher he flew with me over towns and rivers,
till I lost sight of the earth, and I saw nothing but
clouds. Fear was upon me, when the earth
began to reappear and I felt myself descending.
Presently I saw buildings below me, and soon the
eagle alighted in the midst of a great city; and
this, I said to myself in my dream, this is Rome^
" Jack," said my mother, after a deep thinking,
** as sure as thou art now sitting before me, thy
fate will carry thee over every difficulty to Rome."
I must own that I had lost faith in the interpreta-
Basso-rilievo of Psyche. 39
tion of dreams, but I did not question my mother's
powers in this instance.
* I continued to practice my art upon those
principles which Mr. Roscoe had advocated — all
was Greek simplicity, and purity of form. The
works of Flaxman in outlines now began to de-
light me. I admired the beauty and purity of
his female figures and the lofty character of his
heroes. Although he formed his style upon the
Greek vases, his designs are full of original con-
* I now made a drawing of Psyche carried by
two Zephyrs, and afterwards modelled the design
in basso-rilievo, and finished it very highly. Then
I took courage and sent it to the Royal Academy
Exhibition. This was my first work seen there.
Mr. Flaxman knew nothing of me, but he looked
on my basso-rilievo with such kindness that he
obtained a conspicuous place for it near a window,
with a beautiful light
* One of the last works I executed, while still
in the service of the Messrs. Francis, was for the
late Sir John Gladstone, father of the eminent
statesman, who at that time resided in Liverpool.
He came to my master and ordered a costly
chimney-piece. On the side I executed two female
40 Life of y ohn Gibson.
figures in alto-rilievo, which satisfied Sir John so
well that he presented me with ten guineas. That
chimney-piece, I have been told, was taken by
him to Scotland.
* All this time I was very restless and uneasy
in mind ; for, in proportion as the charm of a pure
classical style dawned more and more upon me,
did I feel the longing to go forth into the great
world of art, and to come in contact with rivals.
For it is only by comparing ourselves with others
that we advance and gain victories. In Liverpool
I felt like one chained down by the leg, panting
for liberation ; ever longing to join in the race for
the green branch — the laurel crown. Meanwhile
Mr. Roscoe's bank had failed ; my other friendsr
were not rich, and the wealthy in Liverpool did
not then concern themselves much about art
'Early in the year 1817 I left Liverpool for
London. Once London had been the goal of my
ambition ; now my soul was all on fire for a higher
flight. Golden Hope inspired me and pointed to
the Capitol. I had a letter to Mr. Brougham
(Lord Brougham) and to Mr. Christie the auc-
tioneer, a man of classical learning and pure taste
in art This gentleman examined my drawings,
of which I took a great roll with me. To Mr.
Works for Mr. Watson Taylor, 41
Christie I was indebted for an introduction to
Mr. Watson Taylor, then one of the most liberal
patrons of art After looking at my drawings
Mr. Watson Taylor expressed his desire that I
should model a bust of himself. This I completed
to his satisfaction and that of his lady, who pro-
nounced it to be a more pleasing likeness than
one lately modelled by Mr. Chantrey. They
then requested me to execute the bust in marble.
This was the first commission I received after
leaving Liverpool. My success with Mr. Watson
Taylor s bust led to an order to model one of
Mrs. Watson Taylor. She was a nice quiet
woman, and I did my best to do her justice.
Then I had commissions from them for all the
children in turn, ending with the baby — a little
thing with no shape at all.
* But the greatest favour of all on Mr. Watson
Taylor s part was a commission to execute for
him a bust of Mr. Roscoe. I therefore returned
to Liverpool, and had the honour and pleasure of
several sittings from my excellent patron. Sub-
sequently the bust was executed in marble for
Mr. Watson Taylor in Rome. I also made a repe-
tition of it for myself, which, ten years later, I
presented, as a tribute of gratitude, to the Liverpool
42 Life of John Gibson.
Royal Institution. After the model of Mr. Roscoe
was completed I hastened back to London, bear-
ing letters of introduction to Mr. Fuseli, to Mr.
Flaxman, to Benjamin West, and others. From
Mr. Flaxman I received much kindness. He
inspected my drawings and complimented me
upon them, and also on the Pysche carried by
Zephyrs, which had been in the Exhibition. From
him too I received the strongest encouragement
to proceed to Rome, as the best school in Europe
for a young sculptor. I also showed my drawings
to Mr. Fuseli and to Mr. West — President of the
Royal Academy — who said, " There is that in
them which labour can never attain." I made
also the acquaintance of Mr. Blake, who showed
me his cartoons and complained sadly of the want
of feeling in England for high art. His wife
joined in with him ; she was very bitter upon the
subject Mr. Chantrey I did not see, but went
round his studio. Mr. Watson Taylor, however,
talked to him about my plan of going to Rome,
which Mr. Chantrey disapproved, saying that there
was everything in London requisite for the educa-
tion of a sculptor, and that I might go to Rome
later. Mr. Watson Taylor inclined to this view
himself, and promised to do all in his power to
Determination to go to Rome. 43
advance me in London. My means, it is true,
were limited, and any prospect of increasing the
sum of 1 50/. which my friends at Liverpool had
got together for me was tempting; but when I
remembered my dream of the eagle and my
mother s prediction I resolved not to loiter too
long on the way, but to trust to fortune and de-
part One day therefore I informed Mr. Watson
Taylor that the time was drawing near for me to
start on my journey. He urged my staying to
execute Mrs. Watson Taylor's bust and his own in
marble, but I requested his permission to send on
the models to Rome and execute them there.
Still he thought that I might stay in London, till
at length I said that go to Rome I would, if I
went there on foot He remarked that I was
very decided indeed.
44 Life of y ohn Gibson,
Departure for Rome — Madame Pasta — Canova^s Liberality —
Introduced at CanovcCs Academy — Education of a Sculptor at
Rome — "77/<? Sleeping Shepherd^* — Commissions from Duke of
Devonshire and Sir George Beaumont — Happiness at Rome —
Sir Watkin Williams Wynn.
* T LEFT England for Rome in September,
■*• 1817. A gentleman whose acquaintance I
had made in London, Mr. Bonomi, procured for
me a letter of introduction to Mr. Bartolozzi, then
residing in Paris with his daughter, Madame
Vestris : she was ill in bed, and I did not see her,
but he was remarkably kind to me, taking me
about the place. I could not speak any language
but English and Welsh ; the latter, however, was
of no use to me in Paris.
* In the course of a few days Mr. Bartolozzi
found a Roman vetturino who was about to return
to Rome, which was a fortunate circumstance for
me. I was further so fortunate as to share the
carriage with a young Scotchman of the name of
Graham. This gentleman had a servant with him
who spoke English, French, and Italian, and he
Arrival in Rome. 45
took care of me as well as of his master in the
way of interpretation. There was also another
vettura which kept company with us as far as
Milan, and in that was Madame Pasta with her
young husband and her mother/
We have often heard Mr. Gibson describe this
grand and truly Italian lady, then just commen-
cing her distinguished career ; how she would
pour forth her glorious voice in snatches of song
as they walked up and down the hills, and how
she would occasionally exert it too in scolding her
husband, * which,' he used to add, * impressed me
with a profound conviction of the resources of the
Italian language for such feminine purposes.'
* When we arrived at Florence, my companion,
Mr. Graham, remained there, and I proceeded on
my way in the vettura, which had been joined by
an Italian gentleman who spoke a little English.
* On the 20th October, 1817, I arrived in Rome,
and my mother s interpretation of my dream was
* I had a letter to the Abb6 Hamilton, which I
presented immediately, and found him a very
good-natured old man. He volunteered to ac-
company me to Canova, to whom I had letters
from Mr. Fuseli, Lord Brougham, and General
46 Life of y ohn Gibson.
d'Aguilar. When the hour came I felt anxious
and agitated at the thought of seeing the greatest
living sculptor. We arrived at his studio, walked
through rooms crowded with his scholars, and
were soon in the presence of the great man, to
whom the Abb6 presented me. He received me
most kindly, and examined some drawings I had
brought with me with great attention. Then he
said, ** I wish you to come to me alone next
Sunday morning, for I want to talk with you."
*When Sunday morning arrived I repaired to
the studio, where I found Canova surrounded with
a crowd of young artists, some showing their
designs, others talking to him. He gave me to
understand that he should soon have done with
these visitors ; and when they were gone he
invited me into an inner room. There, in his very
bad English, he began to explain that many
young artists came to Rome with very small
means, and that he assumed might be my case.
He therefore requested me to allow him the gra-
tification of assisting me with the means of prose-
cuting my studies to the best advantage. " I am
rich," he said ; " I am anxious to be of use to yow,
and to forward you in your art as long as you stay
Canovas Kindness. 47
' I was taken by surprise, and felt it difficult to
find words to express my grateful feelings. It
appears that General d'Aguilar in his letter had
mentioned the limited nature of my means, and
had requested Canova to put me upon the most
economical mode of study. I tried to explain to
him that my kind patron, Mr. Watson Taylor,
had increased my means a little, and then I
plucked up courage and asked whether I might
venture to look to him for instruction, saying that
it was my highest ambition to be his pupil, and to
model in his studio. To all this Canova replied
in the most encouraging terms, and told me to
look to him for everything that might be in his
* I need not say that this interview delighted
me, while his gentle manners, his deep sonorous
voice, and his very finely formed features, made
an impression on me which time has never
lessened. Dear generous master ! I see you be-
fore me now. I hear your soft Venetian dialect,
and your kindly wor^s inspiring my efforts, and
gently correcting my defects. Yes, my heart still
swells with grateful recollection of you.
* He told me to make use of a few days to
inspect the sights of Rome, but I answered that I
48 Life of John Gibson.
should be in his studio the next fnorning, and so
' Up to this period I had received instruction
from no master, nor had I studied in any aca-
demy. At my own request Canova allowed me
to copy his fine Pugilist — the marble statue in the
Vatican. I began with great zeal to model my
copy from the cast in the studio. After I had
worked at the clay for a few days, down it all fell !
It seems that my master had observed to his fore-
man, Signor Desti, that my figure must fall ; " for
you see," said he, " that he knows nothing of the
skeleton work — but let him proceed, and when his
figure comes down, show him how the mechanical
part is done." So when my model fell, a black-
smith was called in, and the iron work made, with
numerous crosses of wood and wire. Such a pro-
ceeding I had never before seen. One of his
pupils then put up the clay upon the iron skeleton
and roughed out the model before me, so that the
figure was firm as a rock. After this I worked
indefatigably on my copy.*
' When it was finished my master said that he
considered me competent to model at the Aca-
demy from the life. There was the Academy of
* Now in Mr. Penry Williams's possession.
Canovas Academy.^ ^ 49
St Luke's, and: there was also Canovas academy,
to which he only admitted such as he thought
promising, including students from all parts of
Italy. The expense of this school was defrayed
by the Emperor of Austria, but Canova attended
it twice a week, overlooking and correcting the
students, and received no remuneration for his
* Canova introduced me himself into this aca-
demy. At that time a youth of extraordinary
beauty was sitting as a model. When his time of
rest came, my master said to him, "alzatevi." Up
sprang the youth. " L' Apollo Belvedere," said
Canova ; and in a moment he had assumed the
action and expression of the Apollo — the lofty air,
the dilated nostril, and the slight disdain and
anger of the mouth. It was perfect I spoke out
my delight at the beauty and grace of the figure
before us ; he was like the statue come to life.
Canova said he believed a more beautiful youth
did not exist. Again he cried out ** II Mercurio/'
and like as with the touch of a wand the young
man was in the spirited attitude of the Mercury of
John of Bologna. Then, of his own accord, he
assumed the position of some of Canovas own
50 Life of y ohn Gibson.
'I now began to model from the life in this
school, and my master advised me to look fre-
quently at the productions of my fellow-students
there, from the beginning to the end of the work.
I did so, and most improving it was to me. They
were all very polite, and sorry that I did not
understand Italian. But when I observed the
power and experience of youths much younger
than myself, their masterly manner of sketching
in the figure and their excellent imitation of
nature, my spirits fell many degrees, and I felt
humbled and unhappy. How I regretted that I
had not come to Rome much earlier in life. In
this mood when I returned at night to my lonely
lodgings I sighed deeply, and my gloomy thoughts
flew back to the past — to those happy evenings
of the readings with Mrs. Robinson — the books,
the drawings, the quiet tea-table, the arranged
* To return to my subject One of the great
advantages I subsequently derived from residing
in Rome was the listening to conversations on art,
not only between Canova and Thorwaldsen, but
between artists of talent from all countries. In
Rome all the studios are open to each other,
every man sees another's works, and holds free
Sculptors in Rome. 5 1
communion with him, giving and receiving advice,
and carrying on the labour of art by a combination
of minds. On my return to England how sur-
prised was I to find that none of the sculptors
visit each other in this way, nor does one sculptor
consult another in the process of a work. This
isolation is one reason I believe for the errors in
public works, though some of them show talent
and power. To advance sculpture in England it
is necessary that the artists should come in contact
with each other, and also, if possible, with artists
from other countries. It may be said with truth
that an Englishman does not require to leave his
own land to become a poet, for he can gather to-
gether the efforts of other and great minds in his
own room. But it is different with the sculptor,
who must know what others have done and are
doing, hear their opinions, examine their works,
and enlarge his perceptions by communion with
others labouring in the same path.
'Another great advantage found in Rome Is
that art is more generally understood. There,
any quack who puffs himself up is known to be a
quack; while in England, art not being under-
stood by the masses, men of very mediocre powers
are constantly pushed forward and exalted as
52 Life of John Gibson,
geniuses, and the public are kept in ignorance.
If there were any individuals of real judgment
and taste who would point out the beauties or
defects of certain works it would be very instruc-
tive, but generally speaking the English are led
by the newspapers, whose remarks are useless, or
worse, to the artist in the sense of criticism. An
illustration of this will be found in the following
anecdote, which I know to be a fact A young
man produced a work of a novel character in
sculpture, which brought him into notice. He
continued to work in England, and was then sent
to Rome by his patrons, who, by his own account,
and lest the sight of other works should interfere
with his own new style of sculpture, laid a strict
injunction on him not to enter a studio there.
The young man gave a satisfactory proof of his
incapacity and absence of all feeling for art by
adhering strictly to these rules, refusing even to
enter the studio of Thorwaldsen. He and his
patrons must have looked upon sculpture as a
plaything rather than as an art subject to rules
which cannot be infringed. There can be no
greater absurdity than to suppose that an inex-
perienced youth should be able to invent a new
style in sculpture ! It is only ignorance which
First Work in Rome. 53
attaches a stronger interest to novelty than to
truth ; the Greeks had very dififerent ideas.
* Canova now gave me to understand that the
sooner I began to model a figure, life size, of my
own invention, the better. He therefore advised
me to take a studio, and his foreman found one
close to his own, so that he was the better able
to superintend me.
* Among the clay sketches which I had been
composing was one of a sleeping boy, which
Canova suggested my executing life size. I set
to work, and, as it advanced, he often came and
corrected me, and made remarks which were in-
valuable to me. I called the subject " The Sleep-
ing Shepherd," putting a crook by his side, and I
copied nature pretty closely, for the figure admitted
of the imitation of individual life. Soon a higher
class of subject began to haunt me, and I showed
my master sketches of several groups ; but he
advised me to keep to a single figure, until I had
acquired more knowledge in style, and experience
of form. He was quite right, for it is a very
common mistake with young artists to begin with
groups before they have conquered the difficulties
of the figure. Although the style of Canova was
not altogether pure, his judgment and advice were
54 Life of J ohn Gibson.
excellent. He used often to say to me, " Take
care not to copy my works, study the Greeks."
He also always advised me to go frequently to
the studios of other sculptors, '* and especially go
as often as you can to that of Thorwaldsen, he is
a very great artist"
* In the year 1819 I began to model my group
of Mars and Cupid, seven feet high, and, having
fine living models before me, worked upon it with
great spirit I went often to contemplate the
Greek statues, not actually copying them, which
Canova did not encourage, but drawing outlines
from them in order to learn the delicacy and
beauty of their lines. I also drew legs and arms
and torsos separately and rather large. I worked
many months at my Mars and Cupid, and one
day, when it was much advanced, I heard a knock-
ing at my studio door ; I opened it, and in came a
tall, fine-looking young man. He said, "The
Duke of Devonshire — Canova sent me to see
what you are doing." I felt a little confused, but
when I calmed down I got on well with his grace.
After examining Mars for some time he asked me
what might be the cost of the group in marble.
I answered that, not having experience, I could
not tell. " Think," said he, " and tell me." After
First Commission in Rome, 55
pondering a little I ventured to name five hundred
pounds; *'but perhaps I have said too much."
" Oh no, not too much," said the Duke. He then
commissioned me to execute the group in marble
at the price named. I was delighted, and when
he was gone ran over to Canova and told him all.
My master was greatly pleased, but, when I men-
tioned the price which I had proposed at random
to the Duke, he expressed his regret that I had
not consulted him first, for he considered that the
expense of marble and workmanship would alone
cost at least the five hundred pounds. This proved
to be the case ; for when the work was completed
it had cost me five hundred and twenty pounds,
reckoning nothing for the time I had spent upon
the clay, and subsequently upon the marble.
* This group of Mars and Cupid is at Chats-
worth, and it was the first commission I received
' At that period — 1820 — Sir Francis Chantrey
came to Rome. Canova mentioned me to him,
and he paid me a visit in my little studio in the
Via Fontanella. He asked me how long I had
been in Rome. I said three years. He then
observed, " One three years is enough to spoil
you, or any other man." I asked him whether he
56 Life of y ohn Gibson.
thought I was in a bad school, to which he made
*On the 13th of October, 1822, the great and
good Canova died at Venice. Many were those
who suffered by his loss. To the needy student
he liberally gave money, and to all valuable in-
struction. I received constant lessons from him
for five years.'
It was nineteen years afterwards — May, 1841 —
that Gibson wrote as follows to Mrs. Sandbach, of
Canova and Thorwaldsen : * May I not be proud
to have known such men, to have conversed with
them, watched all their proceedings, heard all their
great sentiments on art ? Is it not a pleasure to
be so deeply in their debt for instruction ? Pos-
terity will do us all justice.' Of Thorwaldsen he
speaks more, as we shall see, further on.
* In 1821 I began to model my group of Psyche
and the Zephyrs, which Canova encouraged me to
execute. In that winter — 182 1-2— Sir George
Beaumont came to Rome. Canova sent him to
see my clay group, which was much advanced,
and the old gentleman often came, watching my
progress. At last he asked what would be the
price of the work in marble. This time I was
more cautious. I said I would put a moderate
Duke of Devonshire — Sir George Beaumont. 57
price on it, and let him know. So when he next
came I was prepared, and named seven hundred
pounds, upon which, to my great delight, he
ordered the group in marble. Canova and Sir
George sent most of the visitors then in Rome to
my studio, and Sir George and Lady Beaumont
often invited me to their house. That winter also
the Duke of Devonshire returned to Rome, and
came to see what I was doing. Among my draw-
ings done in Liverpool was one I had given to
Mrs. Robinson, representing the meeting of Hero
and Leander. I had a repetition of the drawing
with me in Rome, and it was a favourite with
Canova, who advised me to model it I asked
him whether it was an objection that the face of
the woman was hid upon the shoulder of her lover
— not seen — and he said that it was not, for it was
most natural so. " It is full of passion," he said,
" and you must make a basso-rilievo from it" I
followed his advice, and took the greatest pains
with the model. The Duke of Devonshire now
observed it in my studio, and told me that Canova
had mentioned it to him. So he ordered it in
marble, and it is now at Chatsworth.
* I was much elated by the commission Sir
George Beaumont had given me, for he was
58 Life of John Gibson.
reputed one of the best judges of art in England.
He evidently did not think like Sir Francis
Chantrey that Rome would spoil me. No — Rome,
above all other cities, has a peculiar influence
upon and charm for the real student; he feels
himself in the very university of art, where it is
the one thing talked about and thought about
Constantly did I feel the presence of this influ-
ence. Every morning I rose with the sun, my
soul gladdened by a new day of a happy and
delightful pursuit ; and as I walked to my break-
fast at the Caffe Greco and watched with new
pleasure the tops of the churches and palaces gilt
by the morning sun, I was inspired with a sense
of daily renovated youth, and fresh enthusiasm,
and returned joyfully to the combat, to the in-
vigorating strife with the difficulties of art Nor
did the worm of envy creep round my heart when-
ever I saw a beautiful idea skilfully executed by
any of my young rivals, but constantly spurred on
by the talent around me I returned to my studio
with fresh resolution.
' I had for some time been intending to make a
statue of the very finely formed youth to whom I
have alluded at the academy, and decided to
make a figure of Paris from him. I began it in
Lord George Cavendish — Mr. Haldimand. 59
1 8 1 9, and Mr. Watson Taylor hearing of my pro-
gress at Rome commissioned me to execute it for
him. The progress of this work was much de-
layed by the marble turning out defective ; I
therefore procured a new block and began it over
again in 1824. In that year also Lord George
Cavendish came to Rome, and visited my studio.
He admired my Sleeping Shepherd-boy, and
eventually ordered it in marble. I find by a letter
from Lord George that the statue arrived in
London in November 1825.
In May 1826 Mr. Haldimand came to Rome.
I was then engaged in modelling a group of three
figures, representing the youth Hylas surprised
by the nymphs at the fountain. He seemed much
taken with it, and before he left Rome honoured
me by ordering it in marble. Mr. Haldimand
afterwards changed his residence from England to
Geneva. From the latter place he wrote to me
signifying his desire to be allowed to relinquish
the group he had ordered. This he did on very
liberal terms. I afterwards sold it to the late
Mr. Vernon, whose collection by his bequest has
become public property.
' In the same winter — 1826 — ^the late Sir Watkin
Williams Wynn came to Rome. Having heard
6q Life of John Gibson.
that I was a native of Conway he made up his
mind that I should execute a work for him, and
that it should be an eagle in marble. As he made
this discouraging proposition we stood before my
group of Psyche borne by the Zephyrs, of which
he expressed great admiration. But what could I
think of his admiration when he added, " If you
take away the Psyche and put in her place a time-
piece, it will make a capital design for a clock."
When I found him thus beginning to change my
compositions according to his own taste, I lost all
hopes of him. He said, " Then you don't care
about doing an eagle for me ? " I replied, " No,
Sir Watkin, that is out of my way." I then
directed his attention to a model of Cupid draw-
ing his bow, which I was then designing. He
asked me whether I would like to do that for him
better than the eagle. I replied that I certainly
should, and so it was settled. The old gentle-
man and his sister. Miss Williams Wynn, were
exceedingly kind to me during their stay in
' On May 12th, 1826, 1 had the honour of being
elected an honorary member of the Pontifical
Academy at Bologna.
Psyche and Zephyrs. 6 1
' In the year 1827 my group of Psyche and the
Zephyrs was exhibited at the Royal Academy.
This took place after the death of Sir George
Beaumont, who died without having seen it'
62 Life of yohn Gibson.
Preference for Rome over London — Elected Member of St, Lukis
Academy — Thorwaldsen and his Danish Baroness — Camuccini
— ^^ Love disguised as Shepherd^'' — Election as Associate to
Royal Academy — " The Hunter and Dog^' — The Streets of
Rome — The Aurora — Michael Angelo — Classical Costume,
ABOUT this time Gibson's friends began to
urge upon him the expediency of returning
to England, where the death of Flaxman and the
quietude of Chantrey, who had made his fortune,
left an opening in the ranks of sculptors. Mr.
Watson Taylor especially drew his attention to
these facts, adding, * But you must be the best
judge whether Gibson of Rome or Gibson of
London would be the more considerable per-
sonage/ * I had at this time been ten years at
Rome. I felt that by my progress in the race
which I was running I had left some of my young
rivals (Italians) behind me. As I advanced my
ambition for fame only became stronger and
stronger. " Go to London ?" thought I ; " No —
what is local fame ? If I live I will try for more
than that I may fail — yes — but Rome shall be
kSV. Lukes Academy. 63
my battle-field, where I am surrounded by the
most powerful competitors. In England my life
would be spent in making busts and statues of
great men in coats and neckties ; here I am em-
ployed upon poetical subjects which demand the
exercise of the imagination, and the knowledge
of the beautiful. My countrymen have often
observed to me that in England I might become
a rich man — my reply has always been that I
have no use for wealth, for my wants are very
few, and my greatest happiness is the study of
' In the year 1829 Camuccini, the historical
painter, suggested to Thorwaldsen to propose to
the Academy of St Luke's to elect me as a
member. The sculptor Massimiliano had died,
and his place was to be filled. Thorwaldsen and
Camuccini worked hard to have me chosen in
his room. The white balls were more numerous
than the black ones, and I was elected Resident
Academician of merit
* It is time for me to acknowledge the great
obligations I owe to the late Cavaliere Thor-
waldsen. He, like Canova, was most generous in
his kindness to young artists, visiting all who
requested his advice. I profited greatly by the
64 Life ofyohn Gibson.
knowledge which this splendid sculptor had of his
art On every occasion when I was modelling a
new work he came to me, and corrected whatever
he thought amiss. I also often went to his studio
and contemplated his glorious works, always in
the noblest style, full of pure and severe sim-^
plicity. His studio was a safe school for the
young, and was the resort of artists and lovers of
art from all nations. The old man's person can
never be forgotten by those who saw him. Tall
and strong — he never lost a tooth in his life — he
was most venerable looking. His kind counte-
nance was marked with hard thinking, his eyes
were grey, and his white locks lay upon his
broad shoulders. At great assemblies his breast
was covered with orders.'
There is something which lifts us above this
scheming and pushing world when we consider
Rome at the time when these three remarkable
mien — Canova the Venetian, Thorwaldsen the
Dane, and Gibson the Welshman — reigned thus
harmoniously together. Doubtless the high nobility
of tone in this respect was given by the gentle
Canova who reigned at first alone, and hailed
every worthy rival in his art as a friend. One
would fain seek the solution of this edifying
spectacle In that devotion to art whence en-
nobling influences are perhaps oftener expected
than found. Thorwaldsen, like Gibson, as we
have hinted before, showed a greater sympathy
with the genius of antique art than did their
softer southern brother. Both especially stand
unrivalled in that Shibboleth of the true sculptor
— ^basso-rilievo — which Canova never successfully
disputed with them. It is said of Thorwaldsen
that, on first coming to Rome, where he was sent
and well nigh starved upon a small allowance
from the Copenhagen Academy, for three years,
he wandered about among the statues of gods
and heroes like a man in a dream. He was
all life long like a man in a dream, caring for
nothing beyond his art, though adored by his
countrymen — in which all Germans are reckoned
— ^ffeted by the great, and receiving his full share
of caressing interest and flattery from the softer
sex who think that genius especially demands
There are passages and descriptions regarding
the great Danish sculptor in Gibson's letters to
Mrs. Sandbach which we cannot do better than
give here, though anticipating the narrative in
point of date. Mrs. Sandbach had also con-
66 Life ofyohn Gibson.
tributed her share of incense in an ode which is
subjoined."'^ After a residence in Rome of forty-
* Sons of art ! in joyful lay
Proclaim aloud a festive day !
Let the songs of triumph sound
Through the classic air around ;
Behold Thorwaldsen comes !
Back to the ancient home
Of his great art,
Behold the master comes !
Again he enters Rome,
No more to part
See he comes, with honours crown'd,
Rich in fame, adored, renown'd !
Time with gentle hand has shed
Silvery tokens o'er his head ;
Yet from his native shore
He bends his steps once more
To southern clime.
Pour, Sons of Art ! then pour
O'er the propitious hour
A strain sublime.
The glorious * City of the Soul'
Is the sculptor's destined goal;
His adopted country, where
He may breathe a native air.
Shall his free spirit own
A mortal birth alone ?
No ! 'tis divine.
Genius has raised a throne.
And bid him sit thereon.
Rome ! he is thine.
Apollo ! tune thy sleeping lyre,
And touch the chords with raptured fire ;
Spirit of beauty ! join the song.
And pour the echoing notes along.
He who has worshipped thee
Thy votary still shall be ;
one years Thorwaldsen had paid a visit to his
native land in 1838, and there reaped the ovation
which the glory his fame shed upon it merited.
But he had also escaped from the jealous arms
of the Fatherla,nd and had returned to the home
of his adoption, though, as the sequel proved, not
for long. Although once more in Rome, Danish
fetters were upon him. A countrywoman of his
own — a Baroness von Stampe — known as his
generous hostess during the three years he had
spent in Denmark, accompanied him to Rome.
She was devoted, resolute^ and middle-aged ; and
while Thorwaldsen had, as he thought, been the
means of bringing her to Rome, she intended
to be the means of taking him back to Copen-
hagen. For this end she laboured with truly
feminine ingenuity. As it was impossible, by
any defects in domestic arrangements, to render
Thorwaldsen uncomfortable — ^for he was the most
disorderly and untidy of men — she set about to
Then shalt thou honour him, and twine
A chaplet for his brow benign
Of fadeless hue.
Rise to meet him,
Haste to greet him.
Give him welcome home ;
Sons of Art ! with one glad heart
Welcome Thorwaldsen home !
68 Life of y ohn Gibson.
make him too much the reverse, by intro-
ducing reforms in his own slatternly establish-
ment, for which he had little relish and less
Gibson gives an amusing account in a letter to
Mrs. Sandbach (4th December 1841) of a visit he
paid at this time to the grand old man.
. ' Your letter containing the corrected ode on
Thorwaldsen's return came in time, as I had not
given him the first one. . . . On Sunday morn-
ing I doubled up the ode and placed it in your
little volume of poems. I then went to Thor-
waldsen, not having seen him for weeks. He was
ill. After waiting a little I was told by the maid
to proceed on. I had never seen a maid-servant
there before, and as I went through the rooms I
observed order and cleanliness which were equally
as strange. The Baroness met me — Thorwald-
sen's countrywoman — who has come from Copen-
hagen with him. He had brought her before to
my studio, and she welcomed me gladly, and con-
ducted me to his bedroom, where she sat at her
needlework.* " Ha ! I am so glad to see you,"
said he, giving me both hands. Nothing could
* It is usual with Lutheran ladies to carry on the same occu-
pations on Sundays as on week-days.
be more benign. We sat down three together —
the Baronessa, the old Cavaliere, and myself.
There was not only reform in all the rooms, but
the old man himself was made new. A new green
velvet cap, beautifully worked and ornamented — a
superb dressing-gown — Turkish slippers — his large
person — strong deep expression — his silvery hair,
his glittering gold earrings — he looked like a
grandee of Persia; no longer the careless, clay-
bedaubed Thorwaldsen, in the midst of confusion.
What meddling creatures women are ! thought I.
" Gibson," said he, " I am ill, and these doctors
torment my life out Here is a blister on my
breast, and one on my arm, you see. I have no
patience with them. Illness is come now upon
me. Ha ! it is old age !" He drooped his head,
closed his fist, compressed his lips, and there was
a dead silence. Said I, " Cavaliere ! during your
absence from Rome I had the pleasure of bringing
to your studio a patron of mine, with his lady.
She is a poetess, and a great admirer of your
works. My Hunter is for him, and she has
written this ode on your return to Rome. I pre-
sent it to you ; she does not think it worthy, but
I hope you will give it a place among your papers."
The Baroness said, " Is it in English ?" and instantly
70 Life of John Gibson.
got It out of his hand, and to my surprise began
to read it : and after reading on said, " Oh ! Thor-
waldsen, I will translate all this poetry into our
own language/' Said I, " She has written verses
on his Christ — here they are," Then I gave her
the little book, and she read and read, here and
there, and then I offered to lend her the book to
read at her leisure. He was very silent, and I
said, " My friend is pretty." He smiled and said,
"Bella?'' "Bellina," said I. The Baronessa
laughed and said, " Truly there is beauty in the
poetry." I, did not dare to say that you were
young too, for the Baroness is at least fifty. She
speaks French and Italian very well, and is very
rich, and has taken a sort of enthusiastic attach-
ment to Thorwaldsen, and is with him ever and
everywhere. Her husband is here, but I have not
seen him. It was at her villa that Thorwaldsen
designed and modelled several works for his King
during the three years he was absent He is
entirely under the power of this lady now. She
writes all his letters, attends to all his business,
regulates his domestic affairs. They say here
that he will never be free again, and I am very
sorry to tell you what she said to Mr. Benjamin
the other day, that she intends taking Thorwald-
sen back to Copenhagen never more to return to
Rome, and that the King will send two frigates
for all his works in his studio. If it were not for
this lady he would end his days in Rome among
his enemies and friends.
Vlt is now ten days since this visit, and last
night I had the pleasure of meeting him at dinner
at Lady Braye's — ^^pretty well recovered, I said,
" I hope you will never go back to your own
country, but spend your life at Rome among us."
He drooped his head, and did not say one word.'
Again, in a letter to Mrs. Sandbach (January 25,
1842), * Thorwaldsen was here a few days ago
with his Baroness. She brought me back your
little volume, and said flattering things. He,
looking at your bust, said, " Who is this ?" I told
him, and then turning to her he remarked, *' You
see at once that this is a head of talent" It is
lucky you are not here just now, for I fear you
would be flirting with Thorwaldsen, and she would
be jealous of you, and I should be jealous of him,
and your husband would settle us both. He said
to me, ** You should go to England and take the
place of Chantrey." Said I, " In which place do
you think I could produce the best works — ^in
Rome or in London ?" " Oh ! in Rome, Rome,"
72 Life of John Gibson.
said he. " Then why should I go to London ?"
** To make a great fortune/' said he. " But fame
IS my ambition, not a fortune. I think, Cavaliere,
that no one can produce works for lasting fame
out of Rome." Here the Baroness jumped up,
with fire flashing from her bright black eyes.
" I differ from you," she said. '* Thorwaldsen
modelled in his own country as fine things as he
has done in Rome. Rome is a place to learn in."
He interrupted her and said, ** Ah ! we are always
learning." .... The small model of the Aurora
stood by, and he looked at it long, considering it.
And I, with the feeling and submission of a scholar
to a great and venerable master, said, " I pray you
to examine it for me, and as usual say at once if
it be worthy or not to be done in large." His
sentiments were most encouraging. " By all means
do it full size," said he.'
The lady's course did not run smooth. A few
months later (May 7, 1842) Gibson thus reports.
' Thorwaldsen has rebelled against his Baroness —
thrown away the carpets — ^you never saw such
disorder, Some ladies whom I presented to him
yesterday were amazed at his dirty appearance.
He has declared that nothing shall induce him to
go back with her to Copenhagen, This conduct
altogether threw her ill. She would see no one
for days. Now she has taken him in hand again,
and goes about with him as before.' After this
Thorwaldsen's doom was sealed. A lady of such
resolution (and such a name) was not easily baffled.
She carried him off in the October of 1842, and
very probably did the best for him in the end.
He always believed he should return to Rome, but
paralysis seized him, and he died in Copenhagen
in 1 844, at seventy-three years of age.
To return to Gibson's memoir of himself.
* I also had the advantage of the friendship of the
late Baron Camuccini — then the first historical
painter in Italy. I always said he would have
made a greater sculptor than painter. Many of
his best works have great power of composition
and fine drawing. He had the most correct judg-
ment and pure taste of any foreign painter I have
known. Sculptors in general do not allow that
painters are good judges in their art At a very
early period Camuccini began to teach me that
unity of parts which is necessary throughout the
figure, and this to me was not so easy a matter ;
but in the course of time I felt a more acute per-
ception of that quality which is so perfect in the
works of the Greeks
74 Life of John Gibson.
I have spoken of my statue of the Sleeping
Shepherd purchased by Lord George Cavendish.
He showed it to Lord Yarborough, and wrote to
inform me that his lordship desired to have a
graceful female statue by my hand. At that time
I was modelling the figure of a nymph, seated ;
while arranging her sandal her attention is drawn
off, which gives a momentary suspense to her
occupation. Her form is slender and very youth-
ful. I enclosed a slight outline in a letter, and the
result was that Lord Yarborough ordered it to be
executed. Owing to my various occupations I
had the nymph for six years in hand. It was
exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1830.
* In the same year Mrs. Dudley North, sister
to Lord Yarborough, came to Rome. She desired
to raise a statue to the memory of her husband,
the late Dudley North. After seeing my works
she gave me the order to execute the statue. She
had brought with her a cast from a bust of him
by NoUekens, so I had no difficulty about the
likeness. I modelled the figure seated in a chair.
This was my first portrait statue. It was lost at
sea, but having been insured Mrs. Dudley North
commissioned me to reproduce it In that year also
I modelled a figure of Flora for Lord Durham.
Cupid disguised as Shepherd. 75
* Taking up the " Aminta " of Tasso, my ima-
gination was caught by this passage in the Pro-
* Chi crederk che sotto umane forme
E sotto queste pastorali spoglie
Fosse nascosto un Dio ! non mica un Dio
Selvaggio, o della plebe degli Dei,
Ma tra grandi Celesti il pih possente,
Che fa spesso cader di mano a Marte
La sanguinosa spada, ed a Nettuno^
Scotitor della terra, il gran tridente,
E le folgori eteme al sommo Giove.
In quest* aspetto, certo, e in questi panni,
Non riconoscerk si di leggiero
Venere madre me, suo figlio Amore.'
This gave me the idea of modelling Love dis-
guised as a Shepherd, in his Greek hat and little
cloak. The potent god, while slily concealing
behind his back the arrow of soft tribulations,
advances his right hand as if to inspire con-
fidence, and assumes an air of modesty and
timidity. Below the edge of his mantle behind
are just seen the tips of his folded wings/
This statue of Cupid disguised as a Shepherd
was executed for Sir John Johnstone and ex-
hibited at the Royal Academy. The little God
made, however, * no impression upon the hearts of
the daily-paper critics.' Nevertheless, he became
a favourite, and was repeated in marble seven
76 Life of y ohn Gibson.
times. One replica went to Russia, others to
* There appeared in Rome a boy of twelve
years old of most extraordinary beauty of face
and figure, and whilst painters and sculptors were
contending for him I also availed myself of so
remarkable a model. I considered the idea of a
statue of Cupid — this time nude. I represented
him caressing a butterfly upon his breast, while
with his right hand he is drawing forth an arrow
to pierce it I called it " Love tormenting the
Soul." I spent three months upon the clay model,
working almost constantly. I afterwards exe-
cuted it in marble for Lord Selsey, and repeated
it subsequently for Mr. Yates of Liverpool, and
for Mr. Holford. I look upon this statue as one
of my best works.' Gibson was fully persuaded
that the little God appeared bodily to him on this
occasion, and has left a description of the inter-
view, which draws too much upon the marvellous
for insertion here. The gist of their conversation,
however, was that the God of Love directed the
sculptor to colour his statue.
* My next was a figure of Proserpine stooping
to gather flowers in the fields- of Enna. She
kneels on one knee, and while plucking a violet
Visit to Pompeii. jy
looks round in surprise and alarm at the approach
of Pluto. She is about to spring up from her
knees and fly. During the modelling of this
statue I was much annoyed by a young English-
man who ran away with my beautiful model, and
carried her off to England. This statue I exe-
cuted in marble for Mr. Ablett of Llanbedr Hall
in North Wales, and finally repeated it for Dwar-
kamuth Tagore in Calcutta, where, according to
his account, it excited great attention/
These examples help to show how constantly
Gibson lived in the antique world. Only in that
atmosphere did he seem to breathe freely and
happily. A letter addressed to his friend Sir
Charles Eastlake, after visiting Pompeii for the
first time, is quite in place here. (Rome, July i,
1 83 1.) * I need not tell you my very excited feel-
ings on walking for the first time along the streets
of Pompeii. How many lovely girls, I thought to
myself, have pressed with their gold-sandalled
feet these very stones we tread on! Who can
enter these beautifully painted rooms and not see
the lady of the house seated in the midst of her
family — her beautiful daughters around her — one
playing oa the lyre, her gold-snaked wrist grace-
fully moving to the sound, others arranging their
78 Life ofyohn Gibson.
gold fillets and peplum tipped with golden drops
— another waving her iQaf-formed fan. I never
sat so familiarly in company with the ancients
Although the classic subjects and character of
Gibson's works were then, as since, much attacked
by the London periodical press, yet the Royal
Academy was not slow in rendering him justice.
In 1833 he was elected Associate of this body, and
three years later full member. These distinctions
Gibson was pleased to think had been in some
measure prompted by his early friend and long
fellow-resident in Rome, Sir Charles Eastlake, to
whom he thus expresses his simple, upright feel-
ings. (March 1836.) *To be deeply indebted to
you is to me happiness, not a burthen of which I
could wish to rid myself The return which I am
sure would be most agreeable to you, and which I
shall always endeavour to make, is to meet in
every sense of the word the expectations of the
Academy to which I have now the honour to
belong in my own country.'
Gibson was now at the very zenith of his powers.
With a growing fame, many friends, a loving bro-
ther, an absence of all domestic cares, a world of
ancient art and of living beauty around him, and all
His Hunter and Dog. 79
united in that Paradise of the artist — Rome — his
life may be said to have been one of almost ideal
felicity. But it became happier and fuller still.
To return to his journal.
* In the year 1838 t:ame to Rome Mr. Henry
Sandbach of Liverpool, and his lady. She was
the granddaughter of William Roscoe, my early
patron and best friend. Their stay during the
whole winter gave them ample opportunities of
enjoying Rome, its antiquities and arts, and me
an opportunity of contemplating the talent and
genius of this descendant of my patron. Besides
being a poet, I soon perceived that Mrs. Sand-
bach had peculiar feeling and taste for my own
art Accordingly all my compositions on paper
as well as those in clay I used to lay before her.
One of these models became the favourite both
with Mr. Sandbach and his lady. It was that of a
hunter and his dog. The idea was taken from an
incident in the street My eye had been caught
by a big boy holding a dog by the collar at the
moment the animal was about to fly at an object
In this I saw a composition which impressed me.
I carried it off in my memory, and made a small
model in clay. It was ordered by Mr. Sandbach
to be executed the size of life. This statue I
8o Life of y ohn Gibson.
studied with great care, being anxious to make it
my best work.* It is now in Mr. Sandbachs
house on his estate in North Wales.'
This illustrates that habit of the observation of
action and posture which Oibson early formed,
and which found delightful and incessant exercise
in his Roman life. * Besides the study of the
human form the true and diligent artist must care-
fully watch the movements of nature. These are
of the greatest importance. By such observation
he becomes original, and acquires simple, graceful,
and natural action. The streets of Rome are in
this respect a real academy. The inhabitants of
warm climates are more free in their movements
than those of cold countries. It was among them,
in all the circumstances of their life, from the most
pathetic to the most trifling, that the sculptor of
the Dying Gladiator, and of the boy taking the
thorn out of his foot, found these statues. It was
there Praxiteles saw his young faun leaning against
the trunk of a tree, and the Cupid bending his bow.
It was among them that the Discobolus of Myron,
and the same beautiful figure by Naucides were
seen in living motion — ^with many other actions
* There can be little doubt that this is Gibson's finest work in
the round. It was in the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The Wounded Amazon, 8i
which live equally in antique sculpture and in the
every-day life of a southern people. I had frequently
noticed women and girls in the streets stopping
suddenly and turning round, looking backward
over their shoulder at their heel — at the same time
drawing their dress a little up. This action is
always very graceful. One day I made a sketch
in clay of it, and was pleased with the effect. Day
after day I puzzled my brain for a subject to suit
my sketch — all in vain ! All of a sudden the idea
of a wounded Amazon struck me. Modifying the
attitude I made my Amazon lifting up her tunic
with her left hand, and stooping a little to look at
a wound she has received on the outside of her
thigh — her heel is raised whilst the toes still touch
the ground, and with the fingers of the right hand
she touches the wound. This statue, after more
than common labour, was finished and sent to the
Marquis of Westminster, who had ordered it.
* It is in the streets of Rome also that the un-
restrained passions of the multitude, so full of ex-
pression, so adapted to art, may be studied. By
such scenes the inventive faculties of the artist are
enriched. One day, on my way to my studio, I
witnessed in the Via Laurina a scene full of ex-
pression. There were three figures — two of them
82 Life of John Gibson,
young men, seemingly filled with rage towards
each other. The third was a young woman who
clung to the man who appeared to belong to her.
Her hand was upon his breast, which was panting
for rage ; whilst in this action her face was turned
to the other with an expression of great excite-
ment All this time not a word was spoken, nor
did I see a knife in their hands. No one was
near except myself. The incident thus brought
before me led me at once to treat a subject which
I had long been in my mind— namely the quarrel
between Eteocles and Polynices, on which occa-
sion their mother Jocasta interceded. I began
this energetic and grand subject in basso-rilievo,
j and spent a long time over the model.
I ^Polynices, .... There
I Will I oppose thee front to front, there kill thee.
j Eteocles. My soul's on fire to meet thee.
Jocasta. . . . Wretched me !
I What will ye do, my sons V
I have represented Polynices looking at his brother
with calm dignity, and pointing with his sword, as
if saying " There will I oppose thee," while Eteo-
cles full of rage and impetuosity is checked by
Jocasta, who stands between her sons, with one
hand holding Polynices by the wrist, seeking to
Eteocles and Polynices. 83
reconcile him to his brother, and with the other
upon the breast of Eteocles checking his fury.
* Black choler filled his breast, that boiled with ire,
And from his eyeballs flashed the living fire.'
These lines I repeated often to myself while mo-
delling the figure of Eteocles. Jocasta is richly
attired with a diadem on her head, her veil falling
back in graceful folds. Her whole character is
queen-like, and in her tribulation dignified ; her
soul is harassed by the conduct of Eteocles. I
must confess that I have some pride in this basso-
rilievo. Years ago Marshal Marmont when at
Rome did me the honour to come to my studio,
when he pronounced this to be the most success-
ful of my works. I have never had an order to
execute it Subjects of grandeur and heroic
energy seldom attract the public.
' Besides the Hunter Mr. Sandbach desired to
have another figure by my hands to present to his
lady, representing some object congenial to her
own poetic feeling. This proposal began to occupy
my thoughts deeply, and according to my habitual
custom I used to go to the Villa Borghese and
wander in the shade meditating and seeking for
ideas. It was in these solitary musings that
84 Lif^ of John Gibson.
Aurora dawned upon me. I repeated to myself
those lines of Milton's :
* Now Mom, her rosy steps in the Eastern clime
Advancing, sowed the earth with orient pearl/
The more I thought of it the more did I feel that
this would be the very subject for my youthful
friend/ He writes to Mrs. Sandbach afterwards
• — from Innsbruck, * I will give you a sketch of
the statue, but only in words. It is not a bad
thing for an artist to put down in words the spirit
of his idea— though this is a part which you can
do better than I.
* Behold the harbinger of day, Aurora, goddess
of the morning, mother of the stars and of the
winds, just risen from the ocean with the bright
star Lucifer glittering over her brow — one foot on
the waves, the other softly touching the earth.
Aurora youthful, gay, fresh as the blooming rose,
light as the dew, swift as the rising sun her brother.
She is clad in the most transparent vest, simple
and rich ; her delicate limbs are unrestrained and
free among the numerous folds which collect them-
selves in playful variety here and there; now
waving, now fluttering, now winding about as she
glides on, on, through the refreshing breeze.
' Aurora has , filled the two vases which she
Statue of Aurora. 85
carries in her soft hands with pure dew from the
sea, and as she moves onward with swift wings,
at the same time casting a serene and dignified
glance over the universe, she scatters the pearly
drops over the earth, and all the flowers awake
and expand in the morning sun. This subject
for a statue is I believe new ; I was encouraged
to put it in execution from having seen the fictile
vase published by Millingen, upon which is a
single figure of Aurora hovering in the air, and
holding two vases out of which she is pouring
dew upon the earth. This is the Greek authority
for the two vases in the hands of my figure. . . .
* I will now mention Earl Fitzwilliam's visit to
Rome — he was accompanied by his daughters.
He visited my studio, and after examining all
my works he said that he desired to decorate
his large hall at Wentworth with two bassi-rilievi,
and that he had fixed upon the subjects. The
moment he said that a damp fell upon my mind,
for I knew if I did not approve his choice I
should not be willing to accept the commission.
His lordship then named a subject from the his-
tory of England, with knights on horseback in
armour. I said I had great admiration for horses,
and had studied the animal — its forms, anatomy
86 Life of John Gibson.
and action — but I objected to the knights. I
tried to impress on his mind that the beauty of
the human figure, with expression, was the charm
of sculpture. I then showed him a drawing I
had made of the Hours and the Horses of the
Sun. Earl Fitzwilliam had the good taste to
order this beautiful subject to be executed — with
Phaeton driving the Chariot of the Sun as its
On some occasions Gibson would burst into a
rhapsody of delight over his art.
* Sculpture is the delight of my soul : it is more
elevating than any of the other departments of the
arts, for its proper aim is the sublime, and the
purest beauty. To arrive at this lofty degree is
the great difficulty — there is but one road to it,
and this was travelled by the Greeks. Nature
was their school — Nature in all her emotions, and
in all her movements. They established the
standard of beauty from her. Every part of their
statues is copied from the life, yet some say that
their works are conventional. What a lesson it
is to us to contemplate these immortal productions.
They are the golden rules by which we should
* All those men of genius in modem times who
Michael A ngelo. 8 7
have deviated from the principles of Greek art
have left us works not superior but greatly inferior
to the ancients. We ought to profit by their
errors. It is the desire of novelty that destroys
pure taste. What is novel diverts us — truth and
beauty instruct us. Socrates asserts that evils
have a necessary existence, for it is necessary that
there should be something contrary to good.
* When we glance over the productions of all
those artists who have tried new styles — deviating
from the true principles of Greek art — when we
see Michael Angelo and his followers, Bernini
and his school — ^we all acknowledge mighty genius
in the first and great cleverness in the second, but
the simplicity of nature and the refined beauty of
form, the easy grace, and the sedate grandeur
which exist in Greek art are altogether wanting in
In a conversation with the late Mr. Harford of
Blaise Castle, from whose journal we are allowed
to quote, Gibson thus expressed himself in ad-
miration of Michael Angelo's Pietk in St Peter's —
especially as being the work of the great master's
twenty-fifth year. * It is placed,' he said, * so high
in the church that it is impossible to see it, but I
have studied it in casts, and the body of the Christ
88 Life of John Gibson.
— the arms and the limbs — are executed with the
greatest beauty and truth. . . . But in point of taste
his style appears to have been hurt by his profound
admiration and study of the Belvedere Torso,
which, though an exceedingly fine thing in itself
for its special object, is not to be praised as a
general type of the human form. One sees, how-
ever, in his works its influence upon them. One
sees it for instance in the allegorical figures in the
sacristy of S. Lorenzo at Florence. These are
certainly in the style of the Torso. We can but
admire the figure of the Notte — ^as a work of art
it is admirable, but no one could sleep m such a :
position, and that of the limbs is unnatural. The
execution of these statues is extremely fine. The
celebrated statue of Lorenzo de' Medici is full of
sentiment, and seems almost alive. But grand as
these works are, and much as I admire the genius ^
of the man, I cannot say that he had, like Raphael,
just ideas of beauty and grace, and I have often
thought that if Phidias and his chief followers could
have been introduced to the sight of these works
they would have exclaimed, " Here is indeed a
most clever and wonderful sculptor, but a bar-
barian !" Muscular energy pervades all his works
too forcibly — whereas in the works of the Greeks
Michael A ngelo. 89
(so attentive are they to the truth of Nature) there
is a difference in the muscular expression apper-
taining to youth, manhood, and to old age, each of
which has its appointed surface and treatment'
In writing to his friend Miss Lloyd, April 1832,
he again says : ' Your time has been well spent at
Florence among the statues, but though I admire
the genius and power of Michael Angelo very
much, I am afraid your taste might be led astray
by him. . . . The works of the Greeks are like
the works of the gods. Michael Angelo was a
wonderful mortal — ^but celestial beauty and grace
he never arrived at'
' Those sculptors who are not of the classical
schools, having no fixed principles, have no dif-
ficulties to contend with. They maintain that rules
cramp their genius. They thus enjoy liberty, but
they cannot elevate our feelings.
^ When I was modelling the Hunter and Dog I
had a very fine model in the prime of his youth —
with correct proportions. But besides having this
young man I went often to study the casts from
the Elgin marbles at the Academy of St Luke.
These sculptures from the Parthenon are the
most valuable and interesting in existence. Here
we behold works which Phidias himself directed.
90 Life oj John Gibson.
The probability is that he designed all the statues
and the bassi-rilievi, and probably modelled the
finest of them with his own hands. . . . Yes,
the school of Phidias is before our eyes ; if we
cannot equal these noble examples, we can at
least penetrate into their transcendent excellence.
There is, after all the destruction of Greek art,,
enough in Europe to enable the modems to form
a grand and pure style of sculpture. Yet there
are great and fatal obstacles in our way, for nude
statues are not wanted to adorn our public build-
ings, nor are they admitted into our temples. The
public statues which are erected in our squares,
and in the interior of our mansions, do not require
the study of the Phidian school to produce them.
The human figure concealed under a frock-coat
and trowsers is not a fit subject for sculpture. I
would rather avoid contemplating such objects.
' When the Government did me the honour to
entrust to me the execution of the statue of the
late Sir Robert Peel I was allowed my own way
as to the dress. Had they bound me to the anti-
sculptural costume I was prepared to decline the
work. One of the most classical architects in
London stated in a note which I received from
him that he could not agree with niy idea of
. Classical Costume. 9 1
" masquerading John Bull as an ancient Greek."
My reply was that I would not dress him up
exactly like an ancient Greek, but that he, the
architect, would sadly transgress the rules of good
taste and harmony by placing statues in coats
and trowsers between his Corinthian and Ionic
columns ; and I added that, to be consistent, he
should invent a new order of architectural forms
in unison with our modem costume. Such statues
are as obnoxious to me in a Gothic as in a classical
building. The matter of fact principles advocated
by many, indeed by all who do not feel high art,
always produce vulgarity. The literal imitation
of matter delights the masses. They are never
aware that the image of a great man should
always impress the spectator with the character of
his intellectual greatness — it should give us an
idea of his soul, and this may be done by judg-
ment and taste without taking too much from the
individuality. . . . There are scribblers about
art who endeavour to denounce the introduction
into monuments of figures personifying the moral
virtues of the deceased ; thus they would reduce
monumental sculpture to simply the statue of the
person, and that must be in a frock-coat and
92 Life of y ohn Gibson.
* But a writer somewhere says, " The practice
of personifying natural and moral qualities seems
to have been coeval with Grecian poetry and re-
ligion : it was not, however, by any means peculiar
to Greece, and will probably be found wherever
Grazia^^ Birth of Venus — Earthly and Heavenly Love-^
At Yverdun — Illustrations of Psyche — Anecdote of Turner-^
Thunderstorm in the Alps.
*T BELIEVE Winckelmann says that now and
-»■ then there springs up at Rome a face equal
to the antique. We have had such an instance in
a girl named " Grazia," of Capua. Artists of all
nations pronounced her the greatest beauty they
had ever seen — she became a model, but only for
the head. It was remarkable to see a living being
so identical in feature with the Greek ideal. The
tragic grandeur of her countenance was most im-
pressive — every part of the face was Greek — her
eyes were large and black — her eyebrows black
and strong, and drooping a little where they met,
which gave a sternness. Her mouth with the
very short upper lip was perfect — the hair grew
low upon the forehead, and was in such profusion
as to be envied by all the female kind. Grazia
treated all the artists with great haughtiness. She
94 Life of John Gibson.
had a deficient temper, and it was always difficult
to induce her to keep the position required. If a
sharp word was said to her she would immediately
march off, and leave the poor artist to his own
reflections. My friend Mr. B., a well-known
portrait painter, was painting her one day. She
Was sitting abominably, and he said an impatient
word. Grazia answered nothing, but rose from
her seat, took her shawl over her arm, scanned
him grandly from head to foot in silence, and
lifting herself to her full height — she was tall —
stalked majestically away. He, poor man, was
in despair, thinking she would never sit again.
However next morning he thought of an ex-
pedient, and turning into a jeweller's shop in the
Corso he purchased a beautiful gold ornament.
Then he called upon the tyrant, humbly begged
lier pardon, and tendered the offering, which was
condescendingly accepted, and all was made up.
'During summer there may be seen in the
streets of Rome groups of young women and
girls dancing and playing on the tambourine.
Grazia one evening gave such a ball, herself
leading the dance and playing spiritedly on her
tambourine. This was before her own dwelling,
opposite to which was a large convent with high
windows. The next day she received an injunc-
tion from the Superior not to dance there any
more. After some time had elapsed Grazia felt
inclined to renew her gaieties, and heedlessly in-
vited her friends to the same place. That same
night, about two in the morning (the general hour
for arresting people), when in deep slumber, she
was awakened by thundering knocks at the door.
On opening it she was accosted by the gens-
d'armes, who ordered her to dress, put her into a
coach, and took her at once to prison, where she
was kept for several days. Grazia told me this
' I had often meditated a bust of her, but had
hesitated on account of her insolent and capricious
ways. One day Lord Kilmorey encouraged me
to begin by expressing a desire for her bust in
marble. I then engaged the girl to sit to me.
She was, as usual, full of engagements : I wrote
my name at the bottom of the long list, and had
then to wait three weeks for my turn. At that
time, fortunately for me, I had two young lady
friends modelling in the same room where Grazia
sat. One was Miss Somerville, youngest daughter
of the celebrated Mrs. Somerville. She spoke
Italian beautifully and kept Grazia in the best
96 Life of y ohn Gibson.
possible humour. Grazia was under the delusion
that every "Signora Inglese" could speak her
language, and it was dangerous for any lady to
come and look at her and not speak. Whilst
Grazia was sitting to the same painter who gave
her the gold ornament a distinguished English
lady came and looked at her. Her ladyship
understood Italian, but did not say a word to
the girl. This made her furious, and as the lady
was quitting the room and yet within full hearing,
she exclaimed at the .top of her voice " Che brutta
vecchia!" The painter was overwhelmed with
' I took great pains with the bust, and felt happy
to model such an extraordinary beauty. One day
a lady came in who did not understand Italian.
She stared at the girl very steadfastly in silence.
Turning to me the lady said, with a sense of dis-
appointment, " Is this the beauty ? " I had already
observed a cloud gathering over Grazia's black
brows, and her eyes began to kindle. "And what
an atrocious expression she has," the visitor added.
Grazia darted her fiery looks at me and said in
a sarcastic tone " Cosa dice la Signora ? " Instantly
I said " Dice che siete molto bella." She was im-
mediately mollified, and a tinge of red came into
her cheeks, which gave a charm to her dark com-
plexion. Thus by a great deviation from truth I
saved the lady from some gross and insulting ex-
pression, but my mother would have grieved over
this infringement on my part
' Another day Lady Davy came in to pay a
visit to our savage beauty. I had warned her as
to the necessary deportment towards Grazia. So
the moment her ladyship entered the room she
began to compliment her, saying " Bellissima,
dawero ; " and after a few more pretty speeches
took her leave. Grazia then with a sigh said to
herself, " Che cara Signora ! spero che tornera."
' I finished the bust for Lord Kilmorey, and
afterwards executed a replica for Her Majesty.
On the front is inscribed
' Mrs. Huskisson was also a great adniirer of
the Beauty. When she was in Rome there was
a German who gave tableaux vivants at the
" Teatro Valle ; " the most beautiful of the models
were selected. Grazia was seen to great advan-
tage costumed as Raphaels Muse of Poetry, with
a lyre in her hand and crowned with laurel. The
applause was tremendous, and the " ancoras " re-
98 Life of John Gibson.
peated again and again. Mrs. Huskisson said it
was the most beautiful sight she ever saw. When
Grazia was about twenty-five, she married a baker,
and had a baby, after whose birth she never
recovered her strength. The doctors recommended
her native air, and she returned to Capua and
' Vittoria of Albano was another beauty, and
very Grecian too. She would not sit to sculptors,
but consented to be painted by Vernet. So her
beauty will not be preserved to future ages by the
more lasting material of the sculptor.
^ A third fair one may also be mentioned — her
name was Assunta. She was painted by many,
and by Riedel for the Queen.'
While Gibson s passion for beauty found its
highest exercise in following the rules and tracing
the means which had attained development in the
almost superhuman perfection of Greek art, it was
natural that he should also take delight in dwelling
on the nobler and deeper meanings of those fables
which that art illustrated — on the religion that
underlies the Greek mythology. The medley of
fancy and philosophy, all pervaded by the aspira-
tions of a mind of peculiar purity and simplicity,
to which these Gibsonian glossaries of antique
Birth of Venus. 99
lore gave rise, may appear foolishness to some,
but can least of all be excluded from a work
professing to give a faithful portrait of the man as
he lived and thought Some also will not fail to
see how closely he trenched upon the deep things
of a better philosophy. It is very interesting to
observe in his correspondence with Mrs. Sandbach
how these two minds, differently gifted, but both
touched with celestial fire, acted upon each other
— hers ever pointing to the sublime certainties of
Revelation, his dreaming and wandering through
dimmer ways. He thus writes to Mrs. Sandbach
(Christmas Day 1 840) : ' I am contending with
the desire to begin to model my design of the
birth of Venus : soon I shall abandon everything
and begin. Let me bring it before your mental
sight. Behold the new-born Goddess of Beauty
risen from the sea, one foot on the earth, the other
just emerging from the last wave. She looks
forward with modesty and innocence while celestial
Eros receives her with joyful delight. On the
left side of Venus is the Goddess of Persuasion,
holding her hand, and crowning her with flowers.
Phidias represented Venus risen from the sea and
received by Love, while Persuasion presents to
her a crown of flowers. That is my authority for
lOO Life of John Gibson.
introducing Persuasion. Besides beauty a woman
must have the power of eloquence — talent — or we
get tired of her. . . . You say of Amor '* But
how could it be ? for Venus was his mother, and
when she rose from the sea he was not born, was
he ?" " Yes, he was.'' You say " I can't understand
how you make it out" Then observe and be good.
Hesiod in his Theogonia says that Amor rose up to
light out of that unformed mass called Chaos, before
all else; before the supreme gods had occupied
their seats. From Chaos sprung up the most
beautiful of all the supreme gods, the sweet god
Cupid, the consolation both of gods and men —
he who softens the heart, and tames the savage
beasts — Cupid sprang up out of dark Chaos, borne
up on high with splendid golden wings, and after
him the gliding Hours.
^ I think he is called the oldest of the gods.
Remember this is Celestial Love, and means,
methinks, something of this nature. God, who
ever existed, called matter together into form.
He created the heavens, and all the gods or
ministers. But there was with the Divine Power
a pre-existing Desire to call forth the Creation —
therefore Desire, or Divine Love, is first-born, and
keeps together in harmony all things above and
Earthly and Heavenly Love. loi
below. The ancients made an image of that pre-
existing Desire with golden wings, and called it
Eros — and at the birth of Beauty he was present,
and received her in his arms, while Eloquence
bestows upon the new goddess the powers of
persuasion, thus giving you double arms with
which to overcome and humble us poor men.
Without Divine Love matter would dissolve — He
binds all and everything together.'
The distinction between Earthly and Heavenly
Love was a favourite subject with Gibson, who
entered as ardently into the question as if it had
concerned the politics of the day. These rumina-
tions gave birth to one of his most beautiful
designs in bas-relief. He says to Mrs. Sandbach
in 184 1, ' I have pleased myself with the idea of
making the celestial Eros extricating the soul
from the persecution of the earthly Eros — ^but the
composition was not quite to my liking. I will
model it on a much larger scale and send it to the
Exhibition. One of the set who are against treat-
ing classical subjects said to me, when looking at
this design, " You will have to write a page of
explanation that people may understand what it
means." I said ** Oh no, not a page — only Tom
and Jerry fighting for a butterfly."' Further on.
I02 Life of y ohn Gibson.
when acknowledging Mrs. Sandbach's lines on
this idea, given below* he adds * I had been
thinking that the name of the victor is not Eros,
but Anteros — and I got Mr. Benjamin to look
into the learned commentator Alciati, and find
that Anteros is the Celestial Love, first-bom of
* Celestial to Earthly Love.
To the realms of celestial light,
On the wings of the heaven-bom breeze,
I bear the soul from your power away.
Free from the yoke of your tyrant sway.
Hold ! from thy touch it is safe.
In an atmosphere purer than thine,
Earth-bound thou canst not pursue it above,
Where it flies with its guardian, Celestial Love !
Knowest thou not Eros, First-bom
Of the royal assemblage on high ?
Eros, who rose from the shadowy gloom
In light and in splendour, in beauty and bloom ?
O'er the earth on my glittering wings
I hung, and she blushed into day, —
I awakened the voice of the spheres, and the song
Of gladness and triumph rolled richly along.
The Hours on my radiant path
Fling buds of undying bloom.
The golden arrows that fly from my bow
Bear tokens of friendship to mortals below.
I've mourned o'er the beautiful Soul
Consigned to thy withering flame ;
'Tis rescued, and now I defy thee to pour
Oe'r the purified spirit one influence more.
Fable of Narcissus, 103
the gods — Anteros — anterior to Earthly Love
and opposed to him. Alciati is good authority,
but Cicero and some others call Celestial Love
the son of Venus and Mars — they are wrong
altogether. . . .
* Plato in his Symposium says that there are
two Venuses and two Cupids ; one divine and the
other vulgar and plebeian.
* Now Anteros is interpreted by Proclus as
Divine Love, who abstracts the soul from the
* Plutarch in Erotiko says there were two
Loves, according to the sentiments of the Egyp-
tians and the Platonists — the common and the
* Alciati makes Anteros say, ** I am not born
of the vulgar or common Venus (Pandemon). I
have nothing to do with vulgar voluptuousness.
The vulgar Venus is concerned about base amours,
but I inflame the breast to virtue and to honesty,
and raise the mind to the contemplation of hea-
venly things." '
Even in the fable of Narcissus Gibson repu-
diated the common story, and dwelt upon the
deeper sentiment related by Pausanias, viz.: that
Narcissus had a twin sister very like himself.
I04 Life of John Gibson.
and who was habited in the same garments adap-
ted to the chase, to which she accompanied him*
This sister died, and accidentally seeing himself
in the fountain he took his own image for that
of his dead sister and pined away in love and
grief.* This statue by Gibson is one of pecu-
liar grace. The first idea of it was suggested
by a boy sitting on the edge of a fountain under
the wall of the French Academy, with one leg
doubled under him and looking into the water.
It was executed for Lord Barrington.
Gibson's thoughts on celestial Love extended
by a natural connection to the history of Psyche,
which he illustrated by some of his most exquisite
productions. It was while wandering in the woods
of Yverdun, to which place he and his brother had
retreated from the heat of Rome — and thinking
alternately of Mrs. Sandbach and of Psyche, both
equally real and inspiring to him — that ' he first
began to consider how this fable might be treated.
'Yverdun, July 31, 1843. — I must now tell you
how I make use of my time here. First my
brother and I walk for nearly two hours and a
half. It being very cool we can take exercise
• Descriziofte della Grecia di Pausania, tradotta da A. Nibby,
vol. iii. p. 278.
Story of Psyche. 105
every day. Then Ben goes to his Greek, and I
to my designs from the story of Psyche. For
some years past I have felt a desire to illustrate
this beautiful story, and began that design of the
Marriage which you have. This fable has been
illustrated by Raphael and other great men, but
still I feel that I could also do something and keep
clear of them. To engrave these in simple outline
was my object, but that is rather costly, and the
purchasers would be few — few have taste for clas-
sical and chaste designs. I have just made a
sketch of Psyche when she arrives at the palace
of Proserpine with the casket of Venus to obtain
the essence of beauty. She was instructed how
to conduct herself in the presence of the goddess;
'* You will be graciously received and invited to
sit upon a superb seat, and to partake of delicious
viands — ^but you are to sit upon the ground and
ask only for black bread." This shows ancient
manners. Psyche here is a suppliant I have
represented her seated on the ground in great
modesty and melancholy, with the little casket in
one hand and an olive branch in the other, and
Proserpine is seated leaning forward and bidding
Again from the same place. ' August 23, 1843.
io6 Life of yohn Gibson.
The pen with which I now write to you has just
drawn another design from the story of Psyche.
In despair for the loss of Cupid she precipitates
herself into the river. But the kind river washes
her on to the shore — upon a flowery bank. Old
Pan sees her, and consoles her with fatherly sym-
pathy. I have represented the old God raising
Psyche upon his brawny arms — she very languid
and overpowered with despair. The face and
figure of Pan makes a good contrast with the deli-
cate and lovely girl. What I admire so much in
this story is that it presents so many varied pic-
tures. I think I shall be pretty well acquainted
with Psyche and all her troubles. Psyche and
yourself have so often been my companions in the
woods of Yverdun. I am never, never alone, and
my thoughts never still.'
Gibson reasoned rightly as to the difference
between sculpture and painting in the limits
assigned to each, but he had very little knowledge
of any art but his own. In painting he rather
liked the wrong thing best — viz. a sculpturesque
effect and subject As to Turner's pictures they
were as much caviar to him as to the multitude.
An anecdote related to Mrs. Sandbach is truly
A necdote of Turner. 107
' I got into a fine scrape at Turner s one day.
I knew Turner well, I liked him much, and he
was always kind to me — called me " Gibby." I
went to his house with Mrs. Huskisson. We were
shown into a room where a large picture by him
stood, apparently unfinished. When he joined us
— I standing before the picture looking at it — I
said, " This is a very fine beginning, Mr. Turner."
** Beginning ! " he cried ; " why, Sir, this picture is
complete, and will be sent off to-morrow." I saw
Mrs. Huskisson fidgeting her fingers about, as she
does when she is uncomfortable. Turner then
turned to the chimney-piece where stood two
little terra-cotta figures-^ horrid things they were !
** Come here, Gibson," said he, " these are more in
your line." When we got into the carriage again
Mrs. Huskisson said, " Well, I think you got your-
self into a pretty scrape there." '
Nor did Gibson care for the beauties of scenery
in the modern sense of the term — chiefly perhaps
because he was too unsophisticated to say or do
anything because other people did it He was
ever a child — absorbed, inattentive — dwelling
within. * Heaven lay around him,' even at man's
estate — never to the last fading * into the light of
common day.' He had too the vanity of a child,
io8 Life of John Gibson,
guileless and transparent — fondly repeating what
he had once said well — a mind peculiarly refresh-
ing to the weary and heavy laden, and quite un-
consciously so. But he was stirred by the grander
effects of Nature, and delighted also in the simple
manners of her more lowly inhabitants. After
many hot summers in Rome refreshed only by
short retreats to L'Aricia, or any neighbouring
places, he found it necessary to seek a greater
change of temperature, and spent several summers
at Innsbruck accompanied by his brother, and
once by his friend Mr. Penry Williams. On
crossing the S. Bernardino they encountered a
thunderstorm, his description of which might have
been borrowed from * Childe Harold ' but that he.
probably had never read a word of it. * July 31,
1 84 1. We proceeded from Bellinzona, always
surrounded by mountains as we ascended higher
and higher, and slept at S. Bernardino. It is to
this place, surrounded by perpetual snows, that
people come to drink the mineral waters. This
would be an admirably cool place to stay at for
some time. In the morning we — no ; first let me
tell you we had a storm in the night " How she
would have liked it," I thought to myself, " but
she is asleep." The storm was below us, and as
Storm in the Alps. 109
we heard the elements raging beneath we became
aware of our very elevated position. How sub-
lime is thunder among the mountains ! The roar-
ing of one mighty mountain to another, and that
rebellowing back again. The sudden crashes,
like artillery, cracking and rattling, stunning the
ear, while the lightning rent the troubled air of
the night We listened with awe to the storm, as
the long hollow rumbling murmured more and
more faintly away into the distant deeps. The
storm had subsided, and the morning was fine,
and the delicate blue ethereal sky seen through
the rents in the rolling clouds was cheering. We
travelled along in deep snow, sometimes com-
pletely enveloped in thick clouds, so that we saw
nothing but what was close to us, and then emerg-
ing into the light of heaven in a new world at top.
I thought of you, and longed for you to enjoy
with me, to behold, to share in what I admired.
The eternal-looking mountains all around, glitter-
ing majestically in the morning sun. I felt my
soul buoyant and irresistibly rising up with joy at
so magnificent a sight.
* After travelling eight days we arrived here
(Innsbruck) and find the air delightfully cool. I
cannot tell you how well I am, and so is Mr. Ben.
no Life of John Gibson.
Every morning we take our walks in the woods
here. I feel as if I were new modelled. But
there is a spirit within me will not let me alone.
I count the days, I think of my studio. And
then I am puzzled as to a subject of a single
statue for you — here in the woods I ponder and
ponder. I see the little bee finds a flower here
and there, sucks its sweets, and is rewarded, but
I have not found anything to reward me. How
difficult it is to find what is not yet bom !
'Yesterday morning during our walks in the
hills, in the woods, I was struck by a sweet voice.
It was a girl watching her flock. The air was
plaintive, and had a peculiar effect — so pleasing —
and as I walked along ruminating I thought how
would a statue of a shepherdess do ! An Arcadian
shepherdess, very beautiful, sitting down, and
resting her hand upon her crook, and in the other
hand a pipe. She looks melancholy, and in her
drooping look there is a weariness of mind and
body which gives the whole figure a graceful re-
laxation — and by her you see those little flowers
called forget-me-not ! Would it be difficult to
imagine that this nymph is unhappy in her love ? '
This idea afterwards ripened into a small clay
model of the Shepherdess Enone, deserted by
Pass of the Stelvio. 1 1 1
Paris, and contended with the Aurora for pre-
ference among the more sentimental of the visitors
to the studio.
The next summer Gibson was in Innsbruck
again. He writes July 2, 1842 : * Here we are
among the mountains of the Tyrol once more —
Williams, Mr. Ben, and your restless-minded
friend. You make me restless, for I accuse my-
self every day for being so long without writing
to you. But do not think that I am forgetting
you ; during our journey whenever we came to
anything beautiful or grand, unknown to others
I divided the pleasure with invisible you. . . .
From Bormio the famous road begins which
passes over the Stelvio into the Tyrol : the
highest carriage-road in the world. We began
the ascent early in the morning. It is magnificent
and wonderful. Man shows his talents, his power
over great difficulties, in the construction of these
roads. Behold the cunning little workman — he
comes, he explores, and says " Yes ! I will send
a carriage and horses over these mighty moun-
tains," and, by Jove, you are drawn up among the
eternal snows. I am a great admirer of these
' I often think of your present labours, your
112 Life of John Gibson.
tragedy, and long to read it. I like the subject
much. In poetry the principal characters require
elevation and beauty, and most decidedly so in
works of art How Homer painted his heroes !
* Great as the gods the exalted chief was seen,
His strength like Neptune, and like Mais his mien ;
Jove o'er his eyes celestial glories spread.
And dawning conquest played around his head.*
Sculpture should always be in this spirit Sir
Robert Peel said to me, speaking of my statue,
"It is very like Huskisson, but you have given
a grandeur of look to the figure which did not
belong to him." I fancy 150 years hence people
will not complain of that
* Again at Innsbruck — July 1845. Mr. Ben and
I get up every morning at half-past four and take
long walks, and then we have our breakfast at a
caf6 house. And the girl who serves us is always
anxious to say something to us, but it is all use-
less. We do not understand one word, but she
understands me when I say " Cafe and milk for
swine" (flir zweien). Nor do I understand all the
kinds of money, so I let the pretty girl take what
she likes out of my hand, and I am sure she does
not take more than is just from the swine.'
Statues of Mr, Huskisson — Mrs, Htiskisson — Brotize Casting at
Munich — Principles of Portrait Sculpture — Public Dinners
at Liverpool and Glasgow — Commission from the Queen —
Visit to Windsor — Queen^s Statue — Colour-^Richard Wyatt
— Bombardment of Rome,
THE allusions to the statue of Mr. Huskisson
must now be explained. Gibson's bibgraphy
will furnish the details.
'After the melancholy death of Mr. Huskisson
it was decided to erect at Liverpool a statue to his
memory, and artists were invited, and I among
them, to send in models for that purpose. But
being impressed with the bad results of competi-
tion on these occasions, and the difficulty which
those totally unconnected with art have in selecting
the best designs, I declined competing. The work
was ultimately given to me on my own terms
(namely, to be treated classically). In 1831 I
commenced the clay model, which I completed in
five months. I represented Huskisson standing —
draped in the Pharos, with the right arm and
shoulder uncovered. He holds a scroll which he
114 Life of jfohn Gibson.
is unrolling, at the same time looking at you with
firmness. It made an impression on those who saw
it, and Mrs. Huskisson hearing of the success of
the work undertook a journey to Rome, on pur-
pose to see it Meanwhile I had received a letter
from the committee saying that they had been
informed that I was modelling the statue of Hus-
kisson with a bare arm and shoulder and ordering
me to cover them. I showed the letter to Mrs.
Huskisson and she begged me to make no altera-
tion. Soon after, she told me that she had spoken
to the Marquis of Anglesea, then in Rome, who
had in some way communicated with the com-
mittee, and a second letter gave me leave to keep
the statue as it was. It was completed in marble
and placed in the new Cemetery at Liverpool,
within a circular temple designed by Mr. Foster
over the spot where the remains of Mr, Huskisson
* It was in consequence of the following circum-
stance that the second statue of Mr. Huskisson
was designed. A Liverpool gentleman proposed
that the statue should be removed from the
Cemetery and placed in the Custom House — that
being a site connected with the services Mr. Hus-
kisson had rendered to the commerce of Liverpool.
Statue of Mr. Huskisson, 115
The idea of the removal was found to be very
adverse to the feelings of Mrs. Huskisson, and she
requested to be allowed to present another statue
of her husband to be placed in the Custom House.
This offer was accepted by the Mayor and Town
Council, and I was employed to model a statue
eight feet high. This figure was represented in a
moment of deep thought, with the left hand raised
before the chest, a slight action in the fingers as if
calculating, and the right hand hanging down
holding a book. This again is bare-necked and
draped with a mantle in large and magnificent
folds — a mode of attiring the statues of our great
men not entirely in accordance with the ideas of
* During the modelling of this statue Mrs.
Huskisson returned to Rome, witnessed the pro-
gress of it, and suggested many improvements in
the face, which rendered this the more like of the
two. She herself considered this statue the
superior one. These circumstances brought me
to the notice and into the society of Mrs. Hus-
kisson, in whom I found a most gifted and
sensible lady, and a warm and generous friend.
She sympathised earnestly in my fame and was
the principal cause of my rousing myself from my
1 16 Life of John Gibson,
twenty-seven years' residence in Rome, and of my
coming to England in the summer of 1 844 to place
the statue. I proceeded to Liverpool for this
purpose, but found on examination that the posi-
tion destined for it in the long room of the Custom
House was altogether unsuitable, while the only
place in the building where there was a proper
light could not be obtained. Mrs. Huskisson
therefore being anxious that the statue should be
seen to the best advantage suggested that a site
should be assigned in the open area surrounding
the building, and proposed to withdraw the marble
statue, and substitute one for it in bronze. After
some difficulty . this generous offer was also
It is with mournful pleasure that I here pause
for a moment to pay a tribute to this lamented
lady. After the dreadful blow to her health as
well as her happiness inflicted by Mr. Huskisson's
tragical end she remained for long in entire
retirement, which may be said to have been first
broken by her journey to Rome to inspect the
model of Mr. Huskisson's statue in the winter of
1833. Till then Gibson had been personally un-
• This second marble statue is placed at Lloyd's, Royal Ex-
Mrs: Uuskisson. 117
known to her. To those who have had the privi-
lege of knowing both it is no matter of surprise
that this noble-hearted lady should soon feel an
interest in the sculptor, second only to that she
felt for his work. No one was ever more prompt
to recognise what was noble and true in another,
and in this unsophisticated man and in his art she
found a new and unexpected field of interest, the
more acceptable as it lay not only out of the world,
but out of the line of all former associations —
excepting always that which lies at the root of all
interest in the bereaved heart ; namely, the asso-
ciation with the object of its sorrow. Gibson's un-
worldly simplicity refreshed her spirit, his blunders
and mistakes revived her vivacity. Her affection
for him was of a nature given to few to bestow or
to receive — equally as judicious as enthusiastic in
his behalf. She opened both her town and country
houses to receive him, gave him the benefit of her
perfect knowledge of the world, promoted his in-
terests with unflagging kindness and energy, and
looked for no return but the pleasure she derived
from these self-imposed duties. His very friends
shared in the sunshine of Mrs. Huskisson s friend-
ship, as those few who still survive will gratefully
acknowledge, to whom the simple words *dear
1 18 Life of John Gibson.
Gibson ' — her usual designation for him — ^will ever
conjure up memories sad and sweet
Mrs* Huskisson passed also the winter of 1 845-6
at Rome. She quitted the Eternal City in May,
accompanied by Gibson as far as Munich — she on
her way to England, he to his usual summer
resort, Innsbruck. At Munich they inspected the
bronze cast of the statue of Mr. Huskisson which
had been executed there, and which was the object
of their visit They also witnessed the casting of
another statue, of which operation he has left an
original description in a letter to his old friend
Mrs. Lawrence (n^e d'Aguilar) near Liverpool.
'We stayed seven days at Munich — Mrs. Hus-
kisson living at the house of her cousin the English
minister; his lady is young and beautiful. He
drove us all to the Royal Foundry to see finished
what Mrs. Huskisson has so much at heart. The
Foundry is a little out of town. On our approach
we beheld our statue upon a wooden pedestal
erected in the open air, glittering in the morning
sun. Mrs, Huskisson was taken by surprise to see
it standing out before the building, with beautiful
green trees behind it forming a good background.
As we entered the enclosed ground we were re-
ceived by Mr. MuUer, the bronze-caster. He was
Bronze Casting at Munich. 119
dressed on purpose to receive us, with an order on
his breast He is a simple modest young fellow.
I complimented him upon the beautiful cast, and
so did Mrs. Huskisson with grace and much de-
light Mr. Miiller was soon charmed with our
little lady — when pleased tossing her head about
and full of joy. Her soul is ever young.
*• In about four days we returned to see the
casting of a statue. This time Mr. Miiller was as
black as a tinker — I should have said as Vulcan —
but thoughtful and anxious ; for you must know, if
the operation fails it is a great loss to the man. A
platform was raised outside of the foundry for our
ladies, that they might see through the windows,
and in case of explosion they would have been out
of danger. After a considerable time the order
was given by Miiller to cast ; the workmen were
numerous, and the place hot and full of smoke. I
saw the brass plug of the great pan which contains
the melted metal knocked inwards by several
great blows given to it with a long iron pole, the
end of which was red hot ; in it went, and out
rushed the living, red hot river of bronze. It
made its way down into the mould of the figure
very regularly for some minutes, when, at last, I
heard a roaring, bubbling noise, and saw the fiery
1 20 Life of John Gibson,
liquid rushing out of the mouth of the mould
through several holes, in broken lumps. I started
at that moment, thinking an explosion was taking
place, when instantly Miiller threw his cap up in
the air, and all the black devils around him did
the same, with a tremendous shout, then a second
shout, and then a third, uttering each time excla-
mations which I did not understand. The first
was for the happy result of the casting, the second
for the health of Mrs. Huskisson, the third for me.
When the great door was thrown open I was so
glad of a little air, and we were all covered with
particles of soot Then in rushed, through all
the black devils, a fine well-made young Frau up
to Miiller, threw her arms round his neck and
kissed him — her joy at the success of the cast'
The statue was eventually placed in front of
the Custom House at Liverpool in October 1847,
at which ceremony Gibson was present.
The portrait statues by Gibson are very re-
markable, chiefly from the look of monumental
grandeur which Sir Robert Peel criticised in that
of Mr. Huskisson. Our sculptor defined his ideas
of what a portrait should be clearly and originally.
* The fault of the portraits of the present age is
that every man is expected to look pleasant in his
Expression in Portraits. 121
picture. The old masters represented men think-
ing, and women tranquil — the Greeks the same.
Therefore the past race of portraits in paint and
in marble look more like a superior class of beings.
How often have I heard the remark, " Oh ! he
looks too serious," — ^but the expression that is
meant to be permanent should be serious and
calm.' He subsequently executed a statue of
Stephenson, on which occasion he remarked, *• Mrs.
Lawrence says that Stephenson should have a look
of energy — a man of action more than contempla-
tion. I will endeavour to give him a look capable
of action and energy, but he must be contem-
plative, grave, and simple. He is a good subject.
I wish to make him look like an Archimedes.
Activity and energy are momentary, contempla-
tion is more suited to marble. The statue must
give an idea of his studious moments.' Again,
when engaged in the pleasing task of modelling
the fine features of the Duchess of Wellington, a
gentleman observed that he had given them too
serious a character. * Now, Mr. Gibson,' said he,
* I should prefer to see the Duchess modelled with
that cheerful gay look, as she appears when re-
receiving her friends.' * I then replied (and who
that knows Gibson will not see the resolute face
122 Life of John Gibson.
and hear the decided voice as he thus spoke),
" The expression of cheerfulness and gaiety is
beneath the dignity of sculpture, yes— beneath
the dignity of sculpture." '
To return to his first visit to England in 1844.
On that occasion the admiration of his Liverpool
friends rose to that pitch which finds only adequate
vent in a public dinner. Such tributes to eminent
artists had been somewhat in vogue — ^Wilkie had
received the same from the Scotch in Rome —
Thorwaldsen from the Germans in Rome — David
Roberts in Edinburgh — it was natural that Liver-
pool should bestow the same honour on one who
from his early residence among them was claimed
as a townsman. But the compliment paid to the
sculptor at Glasgow was more flattering still from
the absence of all ties of birth or residence. Gibson
had executed the statue of Mr. Kirkman Finlay,
for the Merchants' Hall in that city. It arrived at
its destination during his stay in England in 1844,
and he visited Glasgow to witness its erection.
The principal gentlemen of Glasgow took advan-
tage of his presence among them to give him a
public dinner. ' I was much gratified/ he writes,
* by the kindness shown me in Glasgow, and sur-
prised to see so many public monuments, and all
Commission from the Qiieen. 123
by the best sculptors. I thought the statue of
General Sir John Moore by Flaxman one of his
best, as also that of Watt by Chantrey. I ex-
amined the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wel-
lington by Marochetti — the horse is very clever.
' I stayed at the house of my hospitable friends,
Mr. and Mrs. Graham Gilbert, and during my
stay he painted my portrait, which he afterwards
presented to the Academy there.'
During this visit to England Gibson was hon-
oured with Her Majesty's commands to execute
a statue of herself This announcement at first
rather disconcerted the simple sculptor. * I don't
know how to behave to Queens,' he said. But
Mrs. Huskisson came to the rescue, and after
giving him a few instructions, she added, * all you
have to remember with Her Majesty is to call her
Madam, and treat her like a lady.' Soon after
this he was summoned to an interview with the
lamented Prince Consort at Windsor, to whom
with characteristic simplicity he immediately pro-
pounded two questions which he feared might
offer difficulties. The first was his habit in portrait-
sculpture of measuring the features of the sitter
with compasaes — an operation which in the in-
stance of Her Majesty he suggested that the Prince
1 24 Life of yokn Gibson,
should perform for him. His Royal Highness as-
sured him in reply that the Queen would permit
everything he might think necessary. The second
question was to him the all-important point of the
class of dress in which Her Majesty would please
to be represented. Here again he was at once
relieved by the Prince's assurances that they
desired the statue to be classically draped. ' We
wish it to be like a Greek statue, and the Queen
wishes you to execute it in Rome.' The Prince
then entered into an animated conversation on
Rome, art, and artists, and immediately impressed
the sculptor with a sense of those remarkable
qualities which captivated all who had the privi-
lege of approaching him. So engaging and inter-
esting indeed was this royal young man — then only
twenty-four years of age — in manner and conver-
sation, that Gibson forgot all Mrs. Huskisson's
little lessons on etiquette, and, making his bow,
quietly turned his back, and only recollected him-
self in time to * face about ' before he left the
Shortly after this interview Gibson spent se-
veral days at Windsor, during which time Her
Majesty sat to him with ungrudging patience,
while the Prince, in Gibson's words, made * good
Visit to Windsor. 125
and correct remarks.' It is evident that the
royal couple soon did justice to the artless
character of the sculptor, conversing freely and
kindly with him, ' so that I have not only been at
perfect ease, but happy in their presence. One
day I had spoken of our custom at Rome of re-
peating our works from the same model. The
Queen said to the Prince, who entered, " Mr.
Gibson has executed his Cupid seven times. You
must not, Mr. Gibson, repeat my statue." " No,
Madam, but will your Majesty have any objection
if I present your bust in marble to the people of
Liverpool, to be placed in St. George's Hall ?"
She said, " Oh ! no." The Prince added, " That
is kind of you." I said that Mr. Roscpe was my
first friend who called me forth, and that it was
my Liverpool friends who sent me to Rome.
His Royal Highness said, " Well, Mr. Gibson,
you are an example to the people of Liverpool to
send out more young men to Rome." '
In a letter to his friend Mrs. Lawrence from
Innsbruck, July 21, 1845, he writes: * Before I
left Rome I had finished the full-sized model of
her Majesty. I can assure you it cost me much
deep reflection and careful study. I was ordered
to make it the size of life, so that it required
126 Life of John Gibson.
management to preserve in a small figure the
look and air of one presiding over us — that air
of dignity and firmness, yet softened by a touch
of mildness and grace which her Majesty really
has. To mark all this with simplicity and natural
ease, without affectation, has been my aim. My
statue has none of those usual symbols of a Queen
— ^such as the crown, the royal robes, and the ball
and sceptre. I have tried to give royalty in the
look and action. The Sovereign is represented
presiding over the affairs of the nation, holding in
the left hand the laws, which she grasps tight
with her little fingers, and in the right the laurel
crown which she is about to bestow. But the
action has not taken place, but is about to com-
mence, so that the figure is in repose, and the
spectator anticipates the action. The classical
costume enables me to give elegance and grace to
the lines of my statue, and also lightness. The
corners of the mantle are adorned with the em-
blems of the three kingdoms, and on her head is
a diadem, on which in flat relief dolphins are
sporting upon the waves of the sea.'
In a letter to Sir Charles Eastlake, April 1846,
he thus mentions this work. * The Queen's statue
is advancing in marble, and will be finished early
S tattle of the Queen. 127
next winter — you remember how pleased I was
with his Royal Highness for desiring me to dress
the statue classically. I have always watched
attentively the effect of this Iconic statue upon
the people here, who have crowded to see it ever
since I modelled it. None have complained of
the drapery, but they have admired its richness.
It is true that the portrait statue of a lady does
not thus suffer so great a transformation as that
of a man/
It was in this statue of Her Majesty that
Gibson first broke through the usual limits of
modern sculpture and introduced a little colour.
He thus writes to Mrs. Sandbach — December 17,
1846 — Rome. * Since my return to Rome I have
given myself up body and soul to finishing the
Queen's statue, and have wrought her up as high
as possible. My enthusiasm has also carried me
beyond the practice of sculptors, for I have added
colour. The diadem, sandals and borders of
drapery, are tinted with blue, red and yellow.
Since this statue has been finished my studio has
been constantly visited, and it makes a greater
impression than the model did. ... I must
tell you, however, that the English are startled at
my having painted Her Majesty. They do not
128 Life of John Gibson.
know what to make of it Some like it, and say
that the painting is done with so much delicacy
that they cannot help admiring it, but most of
them condemn, and some run it down even before
seeing it Some express the suspicion that Prince
Albert told me to colour it, otherwise I would not
have dared to do it I have answered " No, the
Prince knows nothing about it I have done it
to please myself." Yes — I know that it will be
universally condemned. Williams was always
against the idea of colouring sculpture — would
never listen to me — ^but, when he saw me deter-
mined, he assisted me in producing the delicate
effect which it has — and now he is a convert, so
he says. Wyatt is against it, but the Italian
sculptors and painters as well as the Germans
admire the effect. My eyes have now become
so depraved that I cannot bear to see a statue
without colouring. I say this to the people,
" Whatever the Greeks did was right'' — that ought
to be our law in art, in sculpture.'
To return to the biography. * The statue
arrived in England, and agreeable to my request
it was allowed to be sent to the Royal Academy,
where it proved a fine bone for the writers on art
to pick. I had arrived also in London and was
Statue of the Queen, 129
again lodged < with Mrs. Huskisson. One day I
received commands to attend at Buckingham
Palace. After waiting a short time his Royal
Highness entered. He was gracious, and giving
me his hand said, " Well, I wished to tell you that
the Queen and myself have been to the Exhibition
of the Royal Academy and seen the statue, and
I am happy to say that the Queen is very much
pleased with it, and so am I " — he added laughing
" colour and all." He observed at the same time
that he had seen in one of the morning papers
a violent attack upon it. I assured his Royal
Highness that if I lived they would have a
stronger dose of polychrome.'
Gibson will return to the disputed subject of
colour further on. The statue of the Queen
excited great admiration among the small public
competent to judge. If the shortness of stature
was a difficulty which he successfully overcame,
some of the most conspicuous beauties are Her
Majesty's own, for the hands and arms were cast
from herself. He was commissioned to execute a
replica* This second figure suffered two serious
risks before arriving at completion. The first
was from an inundation of the Tiber, which threat-
ened the foundations of Gibson's studio — ^the
130 Life of John Gibson.
second from the French bombardment of Rome,
which especially burst over that quarter. A notice
of Mr. Wyatt the sculptor, just mentioned, will
introduce this incident, and at the same time record
the generous justice which Gibson did to him.
* Nearly opposite my door lived a rival — that
rival was Richard Wyatt, who had also studied in
Rome for many years with indefatigable labour.
He, like myself, had been the scholar of Canova,
though not for any length of time, for that great
sculptor died in 1822, when we both of us had
recourse to Thorwaldsen for instruction.
* Wyatt had acquired the purest style, and his
statues were highly finished- — ^female figures were
his forte, and he was clever in composition and in
the harmony of lines. Drapery was also a great
study with him. His statues are remarkably
refined in character, and graceful in action. He
had a strong feeling for the beautiful. His prac-
tice was generally as follows. Whenever he made
a clay sketch for a new subject he would put it
out of sight for several months, and then bring it
out upon trial If it still pleased him he would
then begin his clay model life size, availing himself
of as many living models as he could obtain, and
he always cast the joints when these parts were
Wyatt the Sculptor. 131
beautiful in nature. Indeed the Roman sculptors
make a great study of the joints, hands and feet
* There was a compact between Wyatt and
myself, which was to point out each other's defects
unreservedly, and I always felt that each benefited
by the judgment of the other. Besides this general
rivalry between Wyatt and myself in what con-
cerned art there was another point of competition
in which I must confess he was generally my
superior — namely in his habit of early rising.
For though I always arrived at the Caff^b Greco for
breakfast before sunrise, I constantly found him
already established there, sitting with a wax taper
in his hand, reading the daily papers over his
coffee. As soon as daylight dawned we pro-
ceeded to take our usual walk on the Pincio, and
after half an hour's exercise descended the hill to
our studios in the Via Fontanella, Babuino*
* In the year 1849 we were greatly disturbed by
the public commotions of Rome. I cannot say
that the Italians actually molested any of us, but
it was most disagreeable to be in a place in such
a state of uproar. When the French arrived at
Civita Vecchia I advised my friend Wyatt to join
me in leaving Rome, but though not doubting that
the French would bombard the city he had no
132 Life of John Gibson.
desire to leave, but, on the contrary, wished to
witness whatever might happen.
* Meanwhile the statue of Her Majesty had been
finished and was in the hands of the polisher, who
was now disturbed in his labours by some com-
munications threatening assassination. He was
considered to be a ^ nerOy as the Pope's party
were called, the more so as his son was a priest
I therefore advised him to leave Rome for Porto
d'Anzio, and he took my advice. In due time the
French army advanced to within four miles of our
walls, and then I ran away too, leaving not only
my companion but all my statues to their fate. I
went to Florence and then on to the Baths of
Lucca, where I received a letter from Wyatt. He
reported that the French were making prepara-
tions to attack the city on the side of the Piazza
del Popolo. Anticipating therefore a bombard-
ment close to our studios, he had entered mine
with some men — moved the statue of the Queen
to a corner of the room, and there erected a pent-
house of strong planks over it, so that if shells or
balls broke through the roof they would roll off.
Three days after this the attack began, about three
o'clock in the morning. Wyatt was startled out
of his sleep by the thunder of artillery, the hissing
Wyatt the Sculptor. 133
of the shells, and the smashing of the tiles of the
houses round about. He jumped out of his bed,
which was immediately under the roof, and came
down the winding stair to his working rooms,
which were on the ground floor. Soon the voice
of war became louder and louder, when in an in-
stant a grenade came through the window into
the room where he stood, and burst: one bit
knocked the light out of his hand, and another
grazed his shoulder — his arm was benumbed, and
he was left in the dark in the midst of smoke and
dust He added, " I had a very narrow escape."
A shell had also fallen close to the door of my
own studio, when the women opposite seeing
flames and smoke cried out, " The Englishman's
studio is on fire !" but the shell did no harm.
* The movement of the French towards this
side of the city was merely a feint to conceal their
real point of attack, which was in fact on Mount
Gianicolo, where they actually entered near the
Porta San Pancrazio. . . .
* No sculptor in England has produced female
statues to be compared to those by Wyatt, and the
judges at the Great Exhibition in London of 185 1
very justly awarded him one of the four first-class
134 ^if^ ofyohn Gibson.
gold medals. This honour was conferred on him
after his death, for he died in 1850. . . .
* Mr. Wyatt's relations were going to erect a
small monument over his grave at Rome, but I
requested as a friend to be allowed to perform that
duty. I have done so, and have sculptured his
handsome profile, with the following inscription :
To THE Memory
OF Richard Wyatt, Sculptor,
Bom in London on the 3rd of May, 1795; died in Rome
on the 28th of May 1850.
He practised his art in Rome 29 years. His works are uni-
versally admired for their purity of taste, grace, and truth of
nature. The productions of his genius adorn the royal palaces
of England, St. Petersburg, and Naples, as well as the re-
sidences of the nobility and gentry of his own country. He
was remarkable for his modesty, his high sense of honour, and
his benevolence. Erected by John Gibson, Sculptor, as a
^ token of friendship and admiration.
The Concessions of Pio Nono — Emancipated Liberals — GibsotCs
Trials and Reflections — The Pope's Constitution — Reports cur-
rent in Rome — The Austrian Escutcheon — The Volunteers —
Revolt of National Guard — Murder of Punch — Murder of
Count Rossi— The Little Waiter— The Prohibited Knife— The
Madman — Garibaldi — The French within sight of Rome —
WE here return somewhat on our steps to a
period extending from 1847 ^^ 1849,
when Gibson's biography and correspondence are
full of the tumults and passions which agitated
Rome. If he has no pretensions to be considered
as a political oracle, he at any rate records events
and registers impressions indicative of the spirit
of the time. Not that the perfect accuracy of his
descriptions can be depended on, for though no
man living was ever more truthful, yet his mind
was too intensely subjective for it to give forth
any very graphically correct impressions. He
simply told things as he saw them and under-
stood them. In his own peculiar blocking-out
style he gives a survey of the reforms and con-
cessions granted by the Pope — the liberty of the
1 36 Life of John Gibson,
press — the establishment of political clubs — the
appointment of a National Guard — ^all preceded
by agitations and celebrated by demonstrations
which signalised equally the popularity and the
helplessness of the Holy Father — finally delivering
his soul in this ominous ejaculation, ' Ah ! Pio ! I
think of thee when I watch the spider and the fly
in the corner of my modelling room. . . .
' When Pio Nono first stood forth, encircled by
a new and brilliant halo, he raised his hand — ^the
prison gates fell — patriots were liberated — exiles
rushed back to their native land. The Romans
and the provinces testified their gratitude by
splendid processions, bands, flags, and singing
hymns all the way to the Quirinal. Upon these
occasions the feelings of the good Pontiff have
often been touched — covering his face with his
handkerchief. Behold Rome full of emancipated
Liberals /rpm all parts. The Pope receives the
most talented men at his palace-r-he said to them,
" You are the very men I want to help me in my
* But the day comes when the good Pontiff says
to his beloved Romans, " You ask me for what I
cannot give, ought not to give." What are these
clouds that intercept the rays of the sun from the
Disturbed State of Rome. 137
brows of Pio ? Still he gives way. " Out with
the Governor of Rome !" He goes out. An idol
of the people is put in his place. After a while,
'* Out with him too !" and out he goes. Then the
Minister of War won't do. " Out with him !" and
another is put in his place. There is no end to
their demands — out with this person, down with
that. " Out with the police, death to the Jesuits !"
Every day " Death to the Jesuits!" is heard as
they walk in the streets. Their deportment is
dignified, and so calm. Oh ! National Guard ! you
are getting unruly, too many of you are seen dis-
orderly on the Corso. At length Pio drives in state
through the streets to calm the people — he is well
received, but the cry is " Viva Pio Nono solo !'' '
Personally too Gibson had his share of abuse
and anxiety. Hitherto he had lived in peace —
one of his quiet boasts being that his name never
appeared on the Roman police books. Rome, at
that time, was like an angry sea, which cast up
mire and dirt — some of which was aimed es-
pecially at the English residents. The ill will,
always more or less existing among the ranks
of inferior foreign artists against the successful
English sculptors and painters, came now un-
restrainedly to the surface. ' Bad passions show
138 Life of y ohn Gibson,
themselves/ he writes, 'from the artist quarters,
and I am sorry that higher persons participate in
the feeling that we English sculptors, settling
here, have been injurious to the Italians/ An
attempt was made, by means of agitation, to
compel them to serve in the National Guard.
According to Gibson, some English artists did
so, but they were young and active and fit for the
night-work, which was our sculptor s particular
dread. 'A corporal and guard have been three
times to arrest Wyatt because he has not taken
up his gun to serve in the National Guard. His
lameness has been his excuse, and he is let alone
for the present' Gibson also suffered from his
throat, and from rheumatism, and was furnished
with a medical certificate. * Meanwhile the most
horrid article I ever read has come out against us
in a Roman paper called " La Pallade " — that,
" having come among us beggars, and made
something of a fortune — ^we say nothing of their
talents — they now refuse to serve in the National
Guard. Such can only be made to obey the
' linguaggio del nodoso bastone.' " Freeborn (the
English Consul) is stated to have censured us for
our cowardice, and to have threatened to write to
Lord Palmerston.' Gibson thus philosophises on
Disturbed State of Rome. 1 39
it to Mrs. Sandbach. ' I have never spoken to
my countrymen of the bad feelings of the Italian-
sculptors here. It is disagreeable to think of.
But human nature is so defective. Nobleness
Is only to be found in a few individuals. When
I was in England * * * * said to me " Here
you have a vicious press against you." At Rome
I may say I am surrounded by those who have
' If you meddle with Fame you cannot pass
a life of tranquillity. I have sometimes thought
that had I been a gardener — yours — I should
have been happier — married to one of your
maids — to that little one with the funny cap. But
perhaps she would not have had me ! Williams
is in sad spirits — he thinks his suffering eyes will
not save him from the disgusting night-work. I
fear too — ^but we shall see. In case of a grand
burst I have thought I would slip away with
Ben and Williams to the Ionian Islands for a
year, and wait events.'
Just at this time too there came an arrow from
England in the shape of a fierce and ignorant
attack on his statue of Huskisson, and not only
upon that, but also, by a strange perversion of
aesthetic criticism, on Mrs. Huskisson for having
140 Life of John Gibson.
presented it to the people of Liverpool. This
occasions an outburst from this most placable and
benevolent of men, who spoke in his haste what
we should hesitate to give could it be possibly
viewed in any but a humorous light 'Feb. 21,
1848. I am sorry "the vicious press" has been
so coarse with her. As for their attacking my
work, it is a proof that it gives them pain. In
a professional view I feel as if between two
batteries — one in London, the other here. Yes —
I agree with old King David. I say, curse all
my enemies — those in London and those at Rome
too. I won't forgive my enemies — it's foolish to
do so. Now if you had been near me you would
have stopped my pen and said ** Oh erase that
sentence — throw away that pen and take a clean
one from my hand and write of your enemies
with magnanimity."' Then returning to what
was around him, * We old artists now begin to
hope that they do not intend to force us into this
service. I hope they will leave us alone and
manage their affairs themselves. We shall soon
see how liberty works with them here. The
vSardinians it will do for, for the people are more
enlightened, and so they are in Tuscany.
* There is an English Catholic here, a friend of
L ast Day of Carnival. 141
the Pope, who is anxious that I should undertake
a bust of His Holiness for him. The Pope also
would sit to me. But I hold back because I fear
that my Italian rivals would be more sore. I
would rather not meddle with it At the same
time I have great respect and admiration for
His Holiness. I hope his subjects will turn out
worthy of him.'
The 29th March he writes again to Mrs.
Sandbach. ' For some time past old Rome has
been shaking with agitation. A party here got
up a report which became general that on the last
day of the Carnival every German was to be killed.
That day arrived, and all the troops were out,
with a grand force of National Guards. Nothing
happened, and the last day of the fun ended
peaceably. Rome slept in the arms of tranquillity
— awoke next morning with brighter hopes of the
'AH were glad when the Carnival was over.
But alas! here is a new calamity! all devout
people are struck with awe — horrid sacrilege has
been committed in St Peter's, and prayers are
offered up by the order of the Pope. The
head of St Andrew has been stolen. It was
enclosed in a bust of silver, adorned with pre-
142 Life of John Gibson.
cious stones. A large reward is offered for its
'The 15th of March was a day, new, extra-
ordinary and memorable for the Romans. The
long expected Constitution of Pio Nono appeared
upon the walls. In the afternoon the people
and the National Guard went by thousands and
thousands to the Quirinal to thank the Pope, the
first proclaimer of Italian liberty. The National
Guard are beautifully yet simply dressed. The
costume was designed by Canevari — but why
dress infantry with helmet and red horse-hair,
and with the short, straight antique sword ? The
answer is that they may be as much as possible
like the antique Romans. When all were as-
sembled the Pope came to the balcony. There
stood the splendidly robed Pontiff — the truly
pious and just — the champion of liberty. The
rays of that sun which has witnessed the thou-
sand vicissitudes of the Eternal City fell upon
His Holiness with glowing brightness. The
shout of " Viva Pio Nono ! " from the eman-
cipated Romans was sublime. He then gave a
prayer, to which all responded, and the voice of
the multitude fell on my ears like the voice of
the disturbed ocean restored to tranquillity. He
Constitution of Pio Nono. 143
made no speech, but gave the benediction, when
the people rose again and the " Vivas " were
deafening. The compact battalions of the Na-
tional Guard were splendid, and their arms
glittered like a forest of sparkling glass and
gold, for every man raised his brass helmet upon
his bayonet, and the numerous standards with
golden eagles waved to and fro. Above them
were the majestic statues of Castor and Pollux,
while the parting rays of the setting sun fell
softly upon the affecting scene.
* And the day departed with its brightness, and
the night came with its darkness, but the Ever-
lasting remaineth unchanged — the stars shone,
and God, the living, the merciful, looked upon the
And Gibson returned home to muse over the
Aurora and * The Gliding Hours,' which were then
under his modelling hand. * About ten o'clock
the other morning I went out — crowds in the
streets and collecting by hundreds in the Corso.
** What's going to take place now ? " said I.
" Revolution in Vienna — gran novita — the Em-
peror of Austria a prisoner in the hands of the
people." Soon printed papers were circulated,
confirming all to a word. Hangings and flags out
144 Life of y ohn Gibson.
of all the windows in the Corso, the bell of the
Capitol and others sounding, and perpetual firing
of light arms. This was not enough. Hundreds
went in procession to the palace of the Austrian
ambassador — twelve of the leaders entered, and
found the ambassador with his family at breakfast
They requested him politely to take down the
Imperial arms over his entrance, for the Em-
peror was dethroned. He assured them that he
had no intimation of such an event, and refused to
comply. They retired, got a ladder ; the crowd
was great, and began their work. It took them
more than an hour to get the escutcheon loose
— at last down it came, and was trampled on.
Then they procured an ass, and a little hump-
backed dwarf happening to be near, they made
him get on to the back of the ass with the arms.
Thus they proceeded up the Corso in grand pro-
cession to the Piazza del Popolo. There were
thousands of the people. At the Piazza del
Popolo a large fire was made — numbers of car-
riages were there, and English ladies and other
nations looking on. Oh, would that you had been
there to describe the scene ! — the figures round the
fire, roaring with demoniac shouts, the screams of
furious ecstacy as the two-headed eagle was tri-
Commotions in Rome. 145
umphantly raised aloft and then thrown into the
flames. Then the hands that did the deed were
held up with outstretched fingers quivering con-
vulsively with mad joy — their dark faces and long
black beards looking still darker by the effect of
the white smoke which ascended above the obelisk.
Besides tearing down the arms from the ambassa-
dor's Palace, they were also torn down from the
Austrian church, and from other places.
* But the business was not to end here. Three
hours after, a grand procession was got up from
the Popolo down the Corso to the Palace of the
Senators. There were thousands — masses of the
plebeians and also of a better sort, and some like
gentlemen — numbers too of the soldiers of the line
and National Guards, and plenty of low priests
with the tricolor on their breasts. This mixture
walked in lines arm and arm — flags flying and
militar)'' bands playing. Still the business did not
end here. They illuminated all Rome. During
all these proceedings not a lamp nor a window
was broken — nor any individual of any nation in-
sulted. Then they had a splendid bonfire in the
Corso, which was one flare. When the lights were
to be put out the leaders of this affair fired a gun,
the people obeyed and all went to their homes.
146 Life of yohn Gibson.
* Now the Government has formed the plan of
sending off some thousands of this rabble — with
volunteers from the National Guard and also the
regular troops to conduct them. The young
Romans are mad to fight against the Austrians.
An English artist yesterday saw two thousand
going off — some of them in rags, and many de-
cently dressed plebeians. Their mothers, sisters,
and others were there. Near my friend a fine
tall young girl cried out to her lover, " Augusto
mio ! — ^be of good animo — we meet again, and be
sure you bring me the head of a German ; "—
then other women cried out, " Yes, bring us
their heads." A day or two before all these
had marched to the Coliseum, where their names
were enrolled, and where an eloquent priest had
addressed them^ inspiring them with a love of
their country, and bidding them drive out the
" straniero." You have no idea of the enthusiasm.
' All the inhabitants are invited to subscribe
money to send off these volunteers. We, being
residents here, I consulted our consul as to the
propriety of our subscribing. Wyatt and I thought
we ought not to subscribe, as they professed to go to
fight against Austria ; but Freeborn said the Pope
had prohibited his subjects from crossing the fron-
tier — they are to form a line of observation. He
said he had already subscribed thirty crowns —
I then put down twenty, and Wyatt also twenty.
Two months ago I subscribed fifty crowns to
dress the National Guards. At the subscriptions
yesterday I saw several ladies' bracelets, and all
sorts of women's ornaments,'
Then occasionally our sculptor retires for a
space into the haven of his own ruminations.
* I have never heard of Jean Paul — tell me more
about him. I admire his sentiments as to the
impression which the Greek statues made upon
his mind. I like this, *' The repose of perfection,
not oi weariness;" also, ''These Gods appear
before me and recall to me the laws of beauty."
When I walk in the assembly of the Greek
statues I feel as if I had left the earth with all its
imperfections. I am surrounded by divine beauty,
imperishable — ^which I find nowhere else. The
majesty, the noble calm, the perfect symmetry
which surrounds me, makes me forget for a
moment that I am a poor mortal, I feel as if I
were remodelled — yes — perfect in body and soul.
But I must shut the door upon the Gods, and
come down upon the earth.'
Then come wars and rumours of wars, and dread-
148 Life of yohn Gibson.
ful stories about the atrocities of the Austrians at
Milan, fabricated and circulated among the Roman
people — * roasting people by slow fires — ^bags full of
ladies hands' for the sake of the rings — babies car-
ried through the streets upon the points of their
bayonets, and so on. This is the way with these
people — ^when a Roman quarrels with another,
even among fashionable families, you are shocked
by the horrid scandal they will tell of each other.
. . . We fear that a French army will enter Italy
— in that case there will be a general conflict,
and I shall be a prisoner here. Mr. Ben can-
not live in England, and I should not like
to desert him. Besides, I want to finish my
basso-rilievo of the Hours. I think it the best
composition I have ever done. . . We have not
yet had any German heads, but a trophy was s^nt
from the field. It is the bloody waistcoat of a
German, shot in the breast, and was exhibited at
the Caffe Greco before great crowds of people.
Many of my friends went to see it'
Meanwhile the revolt of. the National Guard
took place. ' Behold the Corso crowded with
people — for three days they roar and thunder
from the clubs. One orator proposes to arrest
the Pope at once — another from the club windows
Revolt of National Gtiard. 149
cries out, " To the Vatican — the Vatican ! there
proclaim the revolution." Some of the National
Guard inflamed with hell fire and fury curse the
Pope, and call him degrading names, tearing from
their heartless breasts his medals, and trampling
on them. Then they took possession of the Castle
of St Angelo, and of all the gates of Rome. For
four days no one could go out of the city except
foreigners with travelling carriages and passports
— ^how the English did fly! Then the storm
was directed against the cardinals — ^we expected
the old gentlemen would be sent to heaven. The
National Guard made them prisoners in their own
houses. One of them said, " By whose authority
am I a prisoner in my house ? " " It is the order
of our captain." " Who is your captain .'^ " " S.
* It was the third day of their confinement,
when lo ! at five o'clock in the morning, I read a
proclamation from the Pope. At the end he says,
" E non rispettando nemmen le Persone, calpe-
stando ogni diritto, tenta (o. Gran Dio, li si gela il
cuore nel pronunziarlo ! ) di tingere le vie della capi-
tale del mondo cattolico col sangue di venerande
Persone, designate vittime innocenti, per saziare
le volontcL sfrenate di chi non vuol ragionare. E
1 50 Life of John Gibson.
sarJi questo il compenso che si attendeva un Pon-
tefice sovrano ai moltipHcati tratti deir amor suo
verso il popolo !"
* ** Popule meus ! quid feci tibi ?" Then he goes
on to say that their conduct will throw an odium
upon their own cause in the face of the whole
world, and then he hints at excommunication !
* At nine in the morning there was to have
been a great meeting at the Piazza del Popolo —
no meeting — all Rome was paralysed by the threat
of excommunication, and they gradually quieted
down. The moment the Cardinals were at liberty
they fled to the Pope's palace, where they have
been for many days. Since those events people
have been able to sleep more calmly. You see
how Pio by the rapidity of his reforms has de-
stroyed his power, and sunk into that of the
Meanwhile there was disunion in the camp of
the National Guards — ^the Trasteverini (those who
live over the Tiber) were the first to return to
their allegiance. * The Trasteverini have ever
been staunch to the Popes : they will fight for the
Vicar of God. The battalion marches out with>
their officers, band, and standards with laurel
crowns, and with four men in plain clothes carry-
Popular Tyranny. 151
ing a large square cushion, crimson velvet trimmed
with gold, upon which is placed a large bunch of
flowers. The band strikes up, and they march to
the Quirinal. The disappointed, disgusted Pio,
had shut himself up for many days with his
Cardinals. Once more he hears " Viva Pio Nono,"
and appears on the balcony and blesses them.
The commander prays His Holiness to allow the
battalion to kiss his foot, and then marches into
the Palace preceded by the four men carrying the
bunch of flowers — the officer presents it, kneels
and kisses the Pope's foot, and then the whole
company one after the other do the same.
* This circumstance troubled the rebelled guards
— ^but soon they made up their minds to do the
same, and so a battalion goes every day with a
bunch of flowers on a crimson cushion to kiss the
Popes foot. Nevertheless Pio is still sulky — he
won't go out to take his usual drive. . . , A Roman
duke whom I have known for years, and who has
always been a Liberal, said to me, " Ever since the
Pope has given his constitution Rome has never
suffered under such tyranny. No man dare open
his mouth — no printer dare publish an article on
the side of equity, order, and justice. The party
of religion and order blame the Pope for his bad
152 Life of John Gibson.
management ; they feel that he has disorganised
society and placed their lives and property in
This was doubtless uttered after the fate of
poor * Punch/ who had paid for his honesty with
his life. * A new paper appeared here called
Cassandrino (Punch), very clever and sarcastic.
Punch claims the liberty of the press, and to
the surprise of everybody avails himself of it
This little paper had a great run — everybody
reading it. He touched up the acts and proceed-
ings of the Liberals, and was very hard upon the
Roman warriors who, against the orders of their
sovereign, crossed over the confines to fight the
" barbarians." The editor of Punch was a priest,
aged thirty. Soon he received a polite hint to
drop his paper, or he would be assassinated.
Punch published the polite hint, and, to the
amazement of the public, continued the paper.
As to the threat, he wrote " Do you intend to
give me the blow in the back or in front ? " The
day before yesterday at ten in the evening
Punch was killed. The bold, clever priest was
struck by the assassin with a very fine narrow
dagger in the neck ; the point came out at the
other side. He gave a cry, fell, and was dead in
Murder of Count Rossi. 153
a minute. I should think this act will terrify the
Romans from using the liberty of the press.
Punch did not meddle with individuals, but wrote
upon the general doings of the Liberals, with many
useful and good truths/
This was written in July 1848. Six months
later a higher representative of constitutional
liberty fell a victim, and the depraved and un-
reasoning people — with the utter unfitness for
liberty which centuries of the worst possible
government had entailed upon them — ^hailed with
impious rejoicings the shedding of that blood
which has ever since been a plague-spot upon
* One day when I was working in my studio
two English friends entered and said " Have you
heard the news?" I said "My man tells me
that Count Rossi has been assassinated — ^but I
can't believe it" Then they said " Put on your
coat and come with us." I did so and went
with them to the Corso, where we found every
house on each side with flags and tapestry, purple
and gold, displayed in token of rejoicing at the
horrid event which had just taken place. In the
evening of that day insulting songs were sung
under the window of the widow, who was that
1 54 Life of John Gibson.
night conveyed in a private carriage of the Pope's
to Civita Vecchia.
* Now the Pope himself has fled from his
emancipated Liberals. They are in — he is out.
Numbers of his windows were broken by the
balls, and his Latin secretary — an old man —
killed. The Swiss were the only faithful servants.
Since the Pope left the storm has gradually in-
creased — still some English families have lingered
— among them are Lord and Lady M. with their
children. One day I was dining with them when
their English physician entered. " What news,
doctor ?" said her ladyship; " how are they getting
on?" "Badly" said he, and then told us this
story. As he was coming from St. Peter s, and
just as he had crossed the bridge of St. Angelo,
he saw a mob of people advancing with two
prisoners — common-looking men — one with his
head bound round with a bloody handkerchief.
By this time the doctor was close to them, when
a wretch with a bayonet came to the back of one
of the prisoners and ran him through — the bayonet
entering between the pelvis bone and the last rib.
The victim fell on his face, when others fell upon
him and kept stabbing him and also the other
prisoner who was on the ground. There were
A tract ties in Rome, 155
pools of blood, and the doctor saw men, and
women too, collecting the blood in their hands
and washing their faces with it, clapping their
streaming hands aloft, and crying out " Throw
them into the Tiber." The doctor had enquired
what they had done, and was told they were
Jesuits in disguise. The bodies were then dragged
by the heels upon the bridge of St. Angelo, and
thrown over into the Tiber. So there was an
end of them. Afterwards it was proved that the
men were poor workmen, and slaughtered under a
mistake. All of us listened with great attention
to the doctor s statement, and her ladyship looked
* I bade good night to my lord and family and
walked home alone. The streets at eleven o'clock
at night were very lonely, and I met only now
and then a single person, and no one would allow
another to come near — but kept on one side. I
did the same, keeping wide apart and having
small pistols loaded — all this precaution arose
from the fear of being stabbed. . . .
* I will mention an incident which occurred to me
soon after Pio Nono gave his general amnesty. At
that period I used to dine at a trattoria in the Piazza
di Spagna. One day, seated by my friend Penry
156 Life of John Gibson.
Williams, the well-known painter, I said, " Ob-
serve that little man, how his eyes are fixed upon
me." He was short, rich black hair and beard —
his eyes bright. He advances right up to me.
** Signor Gipisonl' said he, " you do not seem to
know me." "Who are you.*^" said I. "Have
I not waited upon you at this table three years
ago ? " " Bentornato ! — where have you been all
this while ? " "In the galleys," said he. " What
for ? " " Signor Gipison, I am a Patriot" I bowed
to him, and said ** Capisco — I suppose you are in-
debted to Pio Nono for the liberty which you are
now enjoying." " I am," he replied. ** I advise
you not to lose your liberty again." I then en-
quired of my friend where he had been im-
prisoned. He said, **At Civita Castellana. I
was condemned for seven years. The castle was
crowded with political prisoners. The poor ones
were upon short allowance — the sons of the rich
were supplied with money and permitted to pur-
chase what they liked." He added that he was
himself fortunate, for having learnt a little cook-
ing while waiting in the trattoria the gentlemen
prisoners elected him their cook — so he was well
off as to feeding. Then he said with an air of
importance and affected modesty, "And, Signor
The Little Waiter out of Prison, 157
Giplson, I am a poet." I bowed again. He said,
" Yes — I was elected cook and poet to the Patriots
of Civita Castellana." "In what class of poetry
did you exercise your talents ? " "I employed
my humble abilities in writing epigrams." "And
what were your subjects ? " " Liberty and
Equality — I also touched up the Church and the
priests — my poetry amused my fellow prisoners,
but they did not all agree with my opinions upon
religion. But my skill as a cook gave universal
satisfaction." I said to him, " With respect to the
art of cookery Athenaeus relates that there was
once a cook in Greece who acquired great renown
because he could roast one half of a pig, while the
other half was boiling." "Ah! Signor Gipison,
those ancient Greeks were great liars, but they
could fight for liberty." . . .
* My friend Wyatt used at that time to dine at
a trattoria in the Via Condotti, where he made
acquaintance with an Irish priest who had just
come to Rome, and whom he found very gentle-
manly and agreeable. One evening at dusk
Wyatt and the priest came out of the trattoria
together and bade each other good night Wyatt
turned to the Piazza di Spagna and the priest
walked down the Via Condotti. After proceeding
158 Life of yohn Gibson,
some way (as he afterwards told Wyatt) a little
man with bright black eyes, rich black hair and
beard, suddenly struck at his throat with a knife ;
but the priest, equally quick, saved his throat, and
the knife struck him in the palm of his hand.
The assassin directly repeated the blow, and
again the priest warded it off, and received an-
other wound in his hand. Two young men of
the National Guard, who saw the act at a little
distance, ran up with their drawn swords, and the
first who reached them cried out to the assassin,
" If you stir I will run you through." The man
then gave himself up. The priest, bleeding very
much, was taken to an hospital in the Corso,
where his wounds were dressed. One day the
priest was summoned to attend at the prison.
He went there and was conducted to a room
where stood a row of prisoners. He was told if
he saw among them the man who had stabbed
him, to go up and put his finger on him. The
priest instantly touched one of them, and the man
turned out to be no other than my little friend
the waiter, cook, patriot, poet, and assassin. He
was tried, convicted, and condemned to fifteen
years in the galleys. This happened previous to
the Pope's departure from Rome.
The Prohibited Knife. 159
*A few months after this affair, whilst I was
dining again at the trattoria, I heard great re-
joicings in the house, and asked a waiter what
caused them. He replied with great excitement
that the Government (of the Triumvirs) had
liberated my little friend from the galleys.
"But," said I, "he was condemned under the
Pope s Government to fifteen years' imprison-
ment, for attempting the life of the Irish priest"
The fellow then said, " As it was only a priest he
stabbed, they have liberated him." I understood
afterwards that this rogue confessed that he
thought the priest was an Italian. Some time
after I heard that the little fellow had been for-
tunate at last, for that he had gone to London
and married a " Signora inglese." This latter
piece of information I confess I considered to be
* I once saw a procession going down the Corso
— it was a young man upon an ass. On his
breast was a label, on which was stated that he
was guilty of carrying the prohibited knife. He
was accompanied by a guard of soldiers on each
side of him and by a crowd of people. He
was started from the Piazza del Popolo to the
end of the Corso, and at the Piazza di Venezia
1 6o Life of yohn Gibson.
there was a stage erected on which he was to
stand for a time to be looked at When he as-
cended the steps and got on the stage he turned
round facing the people, raised his right hand
aloft, with the thumb and two fingers up, and the
third and little finger bent down, and with an air
of benign majesty he gave the people the bene-
diction in imitation of the Holy Father. For this
act of impiety he was retained in prison for an
* The prohibited knife is a real dagger which
shuts up like a clasp knife, but it is made on pur-
pose for assassination. When the state of dis-
turbance was at its height these prohibited knives
were publicly sold and carried about in the streets
of Rome. I had a proof of this fact at the time in
a rather distressing manner. One evening I was
sitting in the cafife in the Piazza di Spagna, when
in came a man whom I knew. He kept a shop of
objects of virtu, and had been for years occa-
sionally afflicted with fits of madness. Whenever
the fit came on notice was sent to the authorities,
and he was taken to the madhouse and kept till
he was better. During our Republic the man was
not taken sufficient care of. His fit had been upon
him for some days. He recognised me in the
The Madman. 1 6 1
caff^, and seating himself opposite to me he began
muttering to himself very wildly. We were seated
on divans which went round the little room. I
could see into the next room, and I saw a pedlar
had just entered and put his basket on the marble
table. The madman also saw him and went and
looked into the basket, when suddenly I saw him
taking out the horrid instrument of vengeance —
the prohibited knife. The dagger glistened in the
light — he grasped it, and fixing his eyes on me,
advanced upon me. I turned my eyes to the right
and the left to fly, but he was before me. I sat
still and felt no fear — I looked at him calmly —
when suddenly he drew back the dagger and
struck out with it violently at me within an
inch of my body. He then said, " Signor Pro-
fessore, I will give you this — take it" I was
afraid to raise my hand to receive the dagger, for
fear he should change his mind and stab me. He
then turned away and gave back the instrument
into the basket
* His attack was so sudden that no one had
dared to move, and there was no chair or anything
within my reach for me to defend myself. I said
to my friends that my life hung upon a thread,
and Dr. Albites, who sat near, observed that it
1 6 2 Life of yohn Gibson.
was a most critical moment Although I felt no
fear at the moment, yet when the affair was over
and the man gone I felt cold, and a slight tremor
came on me for a short time — yes — ^for a short
,; * One day, sitting in my studio looking over my
book of designs, I heard a knocking at the door —
street door — I rose and opened it : there stood a
man who asked permission to speak to me. He
entered and put a letter into my hand. At once
I considered him a beggar — I had made up
my mind to be uncharitable. The man was well
dressed. I opened the letter ; there were only four
or five lines, which I read. I give it in English,
having no copy of the letter, which I immediately
returned to the writer. It ran as follows :
* " I am a man of courage, and capable of
running the risk of shedding my blood in execut-
ing anything which may concern you, and for a
moderate reward I am capable of keeping any
secret — ^fuU confidence may be placed in me."
" Did you write this ?" I said to the man. He
was an assassin, ready for a moderate sum to stab
or kill anyone who might be offensive to me. As
I was alone — ^no one near — I began to fear that
he had come to stab me ; but I had offended no
Assassinations in Streets of Rome. 163
one, nor was I making love to the nymph of
another, nor had I any enemy whom I wished to
put out of the way. i.
* The streets of Rome are nearly empty of all
natives at an early hour of an evening. One
night a friend of mine — a Roman painter of merit
— told me that he was going to his home along
the Corso about midnight, when his attention was
arrested by a faint voice. He then saw a man
lying full length in the middle of the street ; the
man said, "I am stabbed, and cannot move." He
was faint from loss of blood, and was afraid a
carriage might drive over him. He begged my
friend to drag him to the footpath. My friend
instantly took him by the ankles and dragged him
to the side, and then walked off as quick as
possible. " But why did you leave him so ?" I
said. He then explained that had he been seen
with the wounded man, and had the poor man
expired, he should have been arrested, and con-
fined a considerable time to be examined ; to avoid
such annoyance he instantly fled.'
Gibson's first mention of Garibaldi is in Dec.
1848. *This independent chief is here. I saw
him for the first time on Sunday last on the Monte
Pincio — he rode a white horse. He is quite
164 Life of yohn Gibson,
young, and I have seldom seen a more beautiful
head — his profile is like a statue. His dress was
elegant — no coat, but a graceful frock or tunic of
scarlet and a small cap ornamented with gold. On
one side he had one of his cavalry officers, and on
the other a gentleman in black. Garibaldi was
quite a show — everyone stopping to look at him —
ladies particularly. As he is beautiful, lawless
and brave, he is sure to please them. He has
come here to try to stir up the Romans. The
other night a Roman gentleman told me Garibaldi
had made speeches at the popular club to a very
large assembly. At last they roared and thun-
dered, some holding up in the air little daggers,
and the National Guard their swords. Another
night at the club an Italian read out, translating
as he went, an article from the " Times," showing
up the Romans for the assassination of Rossi and
for their treatment of the Pope. They were
furious, and cried out " Morte agl' Inglesi." The
" Times" is still flogging on Garibaldi s
manner is frank, natural, and manly. He is much
esteemed by his companions in arms, and every-
body speaks of his bravery, and that he does not
plunder to enrich himself
Then, on Feb. 22, 1849, he writes, 'You will
The French at Civita Vecchia. 165
have heard that they have proclaimed a Republic.
Every day as I go to my studio I see the Cap of
Liberty, blood red, and two tricoloured flags on
the top of the obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo-^-
since then we have been quiet. How long the
Republic is to last remains to be seen.'
April 28, 1849. * We are in the greatest excite-
ment here — that is our republicans — as the French
are at Civita Vecchia. Here is a letter from Mr.
Ben just come' (he was at Civita Vecchia for his
health) — * he says, " Having heard so much bold
and heroic talking, I expected to see all the fun
and to be in the midst of shells and cannon-balls
— but what a disappointment! This morning,
which is fine, the first steam frigate entered the
port at midday and landed the troops, when not a
single musket was fired against them." Previous
to landing the French General sent his proclama-
tion, which was stuck upon the walls — he said the
first cannon that fires upon the French troops will
cost the inhabitants a million of francs.
*We in Rome are in a fever — shouting and
thundering " To arms, to arms ! — death to the
priests ! — fire the churches !" Barricades are making,
but the mass of the population are lukewarm. This
morning all the gates are shut — they would not
1 66 Life of John Gibson.
allow me to go into the Villa Borghese. Mines are
laying in the road as well as on the Ponte MoUe.
Every horse in Rome seized. Thousands are
praying for the quick arrival of the French. They
fear Rome will be sacked before they come. I do
not think so. " What will become of us, Signor
Giovanni ? " said my landlady — meanwhile she is
getting provisions in. . .
* Garibaldi has just entered with all his legion.
They look exactly like Salvator Rosa s brigands.
They have come from the frontier on the Neapo-
litan side. They are as dark as copper, thin, some
with naked legs, with long beards, and wild black
hair down their backs — brigand-pointed hats and
black feathers. The lancers are very wild — poor,
rough, skinny little horses. The plunder which
followed consisted of asses, cattle, fowls, and blan-
kets, of which latter they made a cloak by day
and a bed by night These wild troops marched
into the Piazza S. Silvestro, and are now quartered
at the Convent of S. Silvestro. When they were
drawn up before the place, out came all the nuns.
The crowd felt compassion for the holy virgins,
but when they saw their cocks and hens, and
baskets of oranges, a laugh was set up. Carriages
drove the ladies off; they were veiled up.'
Gibson leaves Rome. 167
When the French were within a few miles of
Rome, Gibson, as we have seen, ran away with
Mr. Ben to the Bagni di Lucca. He returned in
time to see the Pope enter under the protection
of a French army, and as long as Gibson lived
that protection was not withdrawn.
i68 Life of y ohn Gibson.
Pio Nonces return to Rome — Walk through the Sculpture Gal-
leries of the Vatican — Gallery of the Capitol — Sculpture in
the Villa Ludovisi — Bernini,
AT the risk of some repetition I here add a
letter to Mrs. Sandbach, describing his Ho-
liness' entry into Rome, and at the same time
revealing almost more than any other that quaint
simplicity which charmed all who knew Gibson.
* Rome, April 24th, 1850. Many thanks for your
last letter to me ; I always remain long in your
debt, and when 1 write it is but a poor return.
The time is near when we shall meet once more.
Since our last meeting what a way we have gone
over towards that little spot in the distance — the
grave ! Our journey there is now shorter than ever.
Methinks I have pushed on my way very quickly.
I shall set out on my journey to you at the end of
this month. Williams comes with me. Mr. Ben
I take to Florence ; then he goes to the baths of
Popes Entry into Rome. 1 69
* I must tell you that I went out on the 12th
inst to see the Pope enter Rome. The Romans
were out by thousands and tens of thousands.
His Holiness came in at the gate of S. Giovanni
Laterano. When he appeared in the distance the
French artillery began to thunder away, and con-
tinued for some time to split the air and our ears.
Our eyes were dazzled by the numerous troops of
France — ^at last their cavalry came in, galloping
before and behind the carriage of the Pope* It
was a cloudy day, but the clouds made way for
the rays of the sun to fall upon the sacred head of
the " Father of the faithful." Behold that ill-used,
good man, liberal and benevolent^ carried back
into the Eternal City upon the wings of Power —
the nations have willed it.
* The Pope descended from his carriage cheered
by the crowd, and amid the waving of white hand-
kerchiefs he entered the church of S. Gipvanni.
After his devotions he came out, and there he
found his superb state carriage, and those of all
the foreign ambassadors, and the Roman princes,
and then began the splendid procession towards
the Coliseum. I pushed on and took my stand
to see and watch the conduct of the people —
they all along cheered and waved their handker-
1 70 Life of John Gibson.
chiefs, and from every window all the way to
St Peter s.
* The illumination of all Rome was the most
splendid we have ever seen, and was repeated for
* Pio Nono is the first pope who has inspired
me with feelings of warmth towards him — the
grand improvements he was making. One proof
of his liberal intentions was selecting Count Rossi
for his prime minister. He was a man of first-rate
abilities, and a well-proved Liberal. The Romans
proved themselves unworthy of liberty — they as-
sassinated that great man, and in an hour the Corso
windows were waving with gay flags, and thou-
sands were rejoicing in the streets, thus celebrating
and rejoicing in assassination. They proved them-
selves unworthy of liberty when they fired into
the palace of their benefactor and shot his Latin
secretary — and murdered harmless priests in the
streets— and many fine things. . .
* The doctor has not been able to cure my right
eye — still the same — the object is misty; he
thinks a journey would drive it away. I told
him that I am going to England. My left eye is
very powerful. I see the level line on white paper
at a great distance.
Sculpture Galleries of Rome. 171
* In one of your letters you request me to get
you a Roman scarf. I mentioned this to Williams ;
he, being a painter, is a judge of colours ; but we
decided to ask a lady friend who is rich and has
good taste. She came ; I said to her that I am
most ignorant of female affairs, though if Mrs.
Sandbach dressed like a Greek lady I should know
how to purchase the stuff, and also to cut out the
dress and to dress her up in it better than her
lady's maid could. Thus you must be satisfied
with what our lady friend has chosen for you.
When you put it on I will tell you how you look.'
And now, after all these Roman tumults, and
as if by way of compensating contrast, he takes the
reader through the principal sculpture galleries of
Rome, beginning with the Vatican — expatiating
and explaining as he goes with a simplicity and
earnestness which will recall to a favoured few his
real ciceroneship through the same scenes in times
gone by. We shall need no excuse for giving this
part of his biographical reminiscences entire.
* My life in Rome has always been a very happy
one, but during the turbulent times we could not
pursue our labours so comfortably — therefore those
long months were the most disagreeable period of
my Roman residence. The Muses are said to be
172 Life of y ohn Gibson,
silent amid the clash of arms. When the Pope
was back, and Rome returned to its wonted state
of serenity, we resumed our delightful labours. I
read my books in tranquillity, and modelled with
fresh pleasure. I then renewed my visits to the
Vatican, refreshing my spirits in that Pantheon of
the Gods, Demi-gods, and Heroes of Hellas.
* These grand works of the Greeks are ever
new, and always produce fresh enchantment But
in order to obtain a correct perception of their
merits, and to understand the sublime and the
beautiful, the taste must be cultivated by long
study and experience. To surpass the best works
of the Greeks is a hopeless task — to approach
them is a triumph. How few can come near
* The greater number of visitors who go to the
Vatican collection spend too much of their time
in dwelling upon inferior works — stiff, hard repe-
titions. But the student who has acquired some
knowledge — on entering the first beautiful gallery
called the Braccio Nuovo — walks up at once to
the Minerva Medica with the serpent at her feet,
the spear in her hand, and the helmet on her head.
That statue, in my opinion, is the finest in the
Vatican of the draped class. The Greeks, in their
Gallery of the Vatican. 173
personification of Wisdom, have given us an image
worthy of their genius and philosophy. Athena is
beautiful, but her beauty does not affect the pas-
sions. Her form is chaste and pure, in expres-
sion serious and thoughtful — her attitude always
grand and majestic. The contemplation of such
an image purifies and elevates the mind. The
Minerva Medica is one of the favourites of the
judges of art. It represents Athena Polios, the
guardian goddess of Athens. It is probably a repe-
tition after Phidias. It was found in the circular
building on the Esquiline Hill, commonly known
by the name of the Temple of Minerva Medica.
* A few feet further on is the great statue of the
Nile, with a large family of children all playing
round about him. These children, sixteen in
number , are an allusion to the sixteen cubits,
the height to which the Nile rises, arid typify the
fertility which it spreads over the land. This
statue was found near the church of Santa Maria
sopra Minerva — where anciently stood the temple
of Isis and Serapis — in the pontificate of Leo the
Tenth, by whom it was placed in the Vatican.
* This splendid work of art is not a repetition,
but an original production finished by the master
himself It is only the artist who has studied
1 74 Life of yohn Gibson.
Nature who can decide between an original and a
copy. Here Nature is represented full and large,
rather exuberant and very fleshy. The head is truly
grand, and turns towards the left shoulder with
a most paternal expression. The whole is in
perfect repose. This great work was undoubtedly
executed by some artist of no common celebrity,
and is a noble study for the student
* At the end of the gallery on the opposite side
is the statue of Demosthenes. It is one of the
finest I know, but it is a repetition. The nude
part represents rather a lean person ; the head is
very expressive. Let us take a cast of this beau-
tiful statue, strip it of its drapery, and model upon
the figure a coat and trowsers, without omitting
the cravat. All the charm we now feel in it
would vanish. To me it would be a disgusting
object as a work of art
* Opposite to the Minerva, already described, is
a statue a little larger than life — it is called
Modesty, and is veiled ; the same is seen on some
medals which bear the inscription " Pudicitia."
This figure is richly draped. The hand over the
head holding the veil is modern and clumsy. It was
formerly in the Villa Mattel, and was placed in the
Vatican by Clement the Fourteenth — Ganganelli.
Gallery of the Vatican. 175
* We then come to a group of Silenus and the
infant Bacchus. There is another repetition in
the museum at Paris which is still finer than this
in the Braccio Nuovo. Silenus holds the infant
Bacchus in his arms, and looks at him with an
expression of pleasure and affection ; he, as well
as the infant, are crowned with ivy, a plant sacred
* Notwitstanding the destruction of Greek art
we are still in possession of works representing
the different characters in Nature — the highest
ideal beauty, the heroic, and the common or rustic,
such as we see in Fauns, Satyrs, and Silenus.
But there is characteristic beauty in all — it is all
selected or abstract beauty. This group of Silenus
and the infant Bacchus, particularly the repetition
in Paris, is a work of high excellence, and a fine
study for the student.
* On leaving the Braccio Nuovo we find our-
selves in the long narrow gallery — the Museo
Chiaramonte — ^which leads us to the celebrated
Torso. The principal things are on our right
hand ; among them a fine specimen of flying
drapery — a female figure, headless, in movement.
* Next we perceive a very striking head of
Minerva, with glass eyes and a helmet, part of
176 Life of y ohn Gibson,
which is antique. There are small holes in it,
which prove that the helmet was covered with
plates of gold : the ears are bored, by which it
would appear that she had been decorated with
earrings. The ears of the Venus di Medici are
also bored, as well as those of some other fine
antique heads at Rome. This invaluable specimen
of Greek art, in a perfect state of preservation,
was found by Mr. Fagan, the British consul, in
the ruins of ancient Laurentium.
* The finest of the many repetitions which have
come down to us of Cupid bending his bow, by
Praxiteles, stood in this place. How often did we
dwell upon it! This beautiful statue is gone —
gone for ever from Rome. Pio Nono made a
present of it to the Emperor of Russia. In its
place stands another repetition, but very inferior.
* Near the Cupid is a beautiful bust of Augustus
when very young ; the point of the nose is restored.
This bust was found at Ostia by Mr. Fagan in 1 800.
* We ascend a few steps to the Vestibolo where
the torso of Hercules, commonly called " II Torso
di Belvedere," is placed. This fragment is esteemed
as one of the finest monuments of Grecian art
From the lion's skin on the thigh it is supposed to
represent a Hercules resting after his labours. It
The Apollo Belvedere, 177
was the object of Michael Angelo's admiration,
who formed his style upon it It is one of the
few works which has come down to our time with
the name of the artist inscribed. On the front of
the rock on which he sits we read in Greek letters
^'Apollonius, son of Nestor the Athenian, made
it" It was found near the church of S. Andrea
della Valle, where stood the theatre of Pompey.
' Here we see too the statue of Meleager. I
cannot admire this. To me it appears stiff, parti-
cularly in the limbs — the head is the best part of
this work. It was found in a vineyard out of the
Porta Portese, and purchased by Clement XIV.
* We now come to the Apollo Belvedere. This
celebrated statue has been admired for upwards
of three centuries in this very museum, and by
the consent of all judges considered the finest of
all the Greek specimens of ideal art which have
been preserved to us. The god is here repre-
sented as having discharged his arrow either at
the Python, or into the camp of the Greeks, as
described by Homer, or it may be against the im-
pious giants* The swelling of the nostrils and
the disdain on the lip are so delicately expressed
that the beauty of the divine countenance is un-
disturbed What judgment this required! and
178 Life of yohn Gibson.
what a specimen it gives us of Greek refinement
No description in prose or poetry can impress the
mind with an image of sublimity as this statue
does. The form is refined to the highest degree
of beauty, even celestial beauty. The artist who
is not alive to the perfection of this marvellous
statue should never attempt to give a representa-
tion of the archangel Michael. The Apollo was
found at Antium, about twenty-four miles from
Rome, a place famous in history from a favourite
palace of the Caesars built there, which was
decorated with some of the noblest monuments
of Grecian art. This statue was the property of
Julius II. before he ascended the Papal throne,
and was placed by him in the Vatican.
* The Laocoon. This group is spoken of by
Pliny the Elder as a first-rate work of art. It was
discovered in the time of Michael Angelo (1505)
in a vineyard near Rome, and immediately iden-
tified as the same mentioned by Pliny. The
management of the composition and treatment of
the forms is worthy of the great school of Grecian
art The expression of suffering pervades every
feature and limb. It is the united work of three
artists of the school of Rhodes — a father and two
sons — Agesander, Polidorus, and Athenodorus.
Gallery of the Vatican, 179
The school of Rhodes was very famous about a
hundred years before the Christian era.
* Mercury. This fine statue was known as * the
Antinous of the Vatican' till the renowned anti-
quary Visconti came forth and pronounced it to be
Mercury. It is true that the usual attributes of the
Messenger of the Gods are wanting here, and that
the forms are too robust, but Visconti has met this
objection by recognising him here in his character
of the presiding God of the Gymnasium. Some
repetitions have also been found which retain parts
of the Caduceus, and another which has part of
the wings at the ankles. This statue was so
admired by Nicolas Poussin that he made it his
standard of proportion. It was found in the Baths
of Hadrian near S. Martino in Monte, about three
* Ariadne, abandoned by Theseus in the island
of Naxos. This magnificent statue had long been
known by the name of Cleopatra. This was
owing to the serpent-bracelet on her wrist, which
' antiquaries had mistaken for the asp. But Vis-
conti has settled the question in favour of Ariadne,
who, oppressed and afflicted, has laid herself down
on the shore. Sleep has stolen upon her senses,
but it is not the sleep of a tranquil mind; her
1 8o Life of yohn Gibson.
attitude suggests restlessness, and the upper part
of the dress is somewhat disordered, exposing her
lovely bosom and part of the body. This statue
is in the highest style of art and admirably com--
posed, natural and graceful. The contemplation
of this grand work is always a new pleasure. It
was deposited in the Vatican by Julius II., and was
one of the first placed there. It is not known
where it was found. The sarcophagus on which
it stands describes a subject seldom met with —
the War of the Giants.
* Apollo Sauroctonos. The original was in
bronze, by Praxiteles, and is mentioned by Pliny.
Several copies of this most graceful statue have
come down to us, and one in bronze in the Villa
Albani is smaller than those in marble. The
forms of this figure are refined to the highest
degree of beauty and delicacy, and the composition
is in accordance with the laws of art. The left
arm leaning on the tree is extended forward,
whilst the foot on the same side retreats back;
the right arm forms an angle over the right
standing leg, and the head turns gracefully over
the shoulder most elevated. This arrangement
produces balance, grace, and perfect harmony
throughout the whole, and is at the same time
Gallery of the Vatican. 1 8 1
natural and easy. This repetition waa found in
the Palatine Hill in 1777.
* In the same gallery with the Ariadne we come
to a very favourite work, generally called " II
Genio del Vaticano." It is a half figure of Cupid
— as a grown-up youth. There exist two other
repetitions of the same. One of my greatest
delights is to contemplate this fragment It is
impossible to imagine a countenance more lovely,
pure, serene, and spiritually beautiful. How
luxurious are his waving curls round his soft neck,
how graceful the inclined position of the head. I
have no doubt that this statue represents Celestial
Cupid, and Visconti believes it to be after
* We leave Celestial Eros with reluctance, and
after passing some fine works we are rivetted to
the spot by a beautiful statue of an Amazon. The
lover of sculpture is here struck by the power of
the Greek artist in blending severity of character
and strength with the female form. The face is
grave, and seems incapable of tender emotion —
yet beautiful. The shoulders are somewhat broad,
and the left breast, which is exposed, is small, not
prominent The arms and limbs are particularly
fine. The tunic is a specimen of the dress which
1 82 Life of yohn Gibson.
the Amazons are supposed to have worn, and is
in numerous crisp folds, giving breadth to the
flesh. The style of this statue is worthy of the
school of Phidias. The tunic is darker than the
flesh, and Visconti believes that it was painted.
Since the time of Visconti many fragments of
statues have been found with colour on them.
' Close to the Amazon are the figures of Me-
nandro and Poseidippos, sitting in chairs. They
are admirable specimens of portrait statues, true
to nature in character and action.
* Opposite the fragment of Celestial Cupid is a
statue of a young Faun, resting with his bent arm
on the trunk of a tree, holding his pipe in his
hand. He has ceased to play, and there is mirth
and good nature in his youthful face. Although
a rustic he is full of beauty. The whole figure is
in perfect ease, and the relaxed leg and foot are
beautifully negligent, in keeping with his character.
The longer we look at this admirable work the
more we agree with Visconti that it is a copy from
the celebrated Faun by Praxiteles ; the repetitions
of this figure are numerous, but this is the finest of
them all. When several copies of the same work
have been found it is reasonable to infer that
the original must have been popular. There
Gallery of the Vatican. 183
are four or five repetitions of the Venus of Praxi-
* We here enter a small circular room, the archi-
tecture of which is very elegant and rich — the
ceiling is painted, and the mosaic floor is antique.
There are a few fine works here, but that which
gives me particular pleasure is the statue of the
crouching Venus— or, it may be, a nymph at the
bath. This work is so fleshy and beautiful that I
am inclined to think it an original; there are
repetitions to be found elsewhere, but they are
inferior to this. Among the vast number of
ancient statues that have descended to us there
are very few represented in a doubled-up or
crouching attitude. Such positions are unfavour-
able to the display of long, graceful lines, nor are
the proportions seen to advantage. The figure is
here natural, but both the arms as well as the
knees form angles, and cover the front of the
body. Still we admire this great favourite.
' Passing through the small circular room of the
nine Muses, with their leader, Apollo Musigetes,
we enter the great Rotunda, which contains large
statues of high merit On the right is a colossal
statue of Jove, a sublime production, on which
we may meditate. The Pagans represented the
I $4 Life of John Gibson.
Divinity under a human form — ^we see also God
painted and sculptured in the Roman Catholic
churches. This image of Jove, produced by a
Greek artist, strikes us with the idea of the highest
sublimity and beauty — ^beauty unfading. The ex-
pression is paternal and venerable, yet ever young.
How rich are his ambrosial locks ! Power, bene-
volence, majesty, and beauty are combined in this
Greek work. The Christian artist's idea of God
is not so lofty — they represent Him as an aged
man, with a certain vigour and action, but time has
diminished His strength and beauty ,* you feel
that He is in the decline of age. He is a grand
old man and nothing more. The Greek artists
were enlightened by the philosophers — the gods
personified by the sculptors were pure, passionless,
and beautiful. The poets were not so elevated in
their conceptions ; they made them beautiful and
mighty, but with human propensities and sen-
sations. Aries roared aloud with pain, and
Aphrodite suffered when wounded.
* Our artistic ambition becomes often depressed
in the contemplation of these wonderful works.
In the art of sculpture the Greeks were gods.
We, with all our efforts, find it hard toil to creep
upwards after them. The eminence on which
Gallery of the Vatican. 185
they stand is beyond our reach. Still the sculptor,
duly imbued with the principles of his art, struggles
on, and feels delight in his labours — for the study
of the beautiful is his profession.
' In the Vatican we go from statue to statue,
from fragment to fragment, like the bee from
flower to flowen How enchanting is the Dis-
cobolus of Naucydes of Argos! The original
does not exist, but the repetition in the circular
room of the Biga is the best of those that remain.
This beautiful work is admired for the natural
action and the graceful play of all its movements,
and for its broad style and fine proportions. He
is in the act of indicating the distance before
throwing his discus. In this composition neither
of the arms cross the body. When the action
represented permits the display of the front of the
figure it is most favourable to beauty and grace.
Such is the arrangement in the Apollo, and in
most fine statues.
* In the same room is the Discobolus of Myron,
in the act of throwing his discus, mentioned by
Greek writers. A man could not sustain such a
position ; it represents a momentary action, which
the sculptor must have often seen, and is perfectly
true to nature. The modern head of this repeti-
1 86 Life of y ohn Gibson.
tion turns from the discus, but that in the Palazzo
Massimi is the most valuable. The head there
has remained entire, and turns back towards the
* In this room also is a statue of Bacchus — a
very fine work — which shows in great perfection
his double character, that is, the combination of
the male and female form. A Greek writer says
that when the god appeared among men he
looked like a woman, when among women like a
* From the apartment of the Biga, turning to
the right and passing through the iron gate, we
find ourselves in a long gallery full of statues and
fragments. Those who are capable of judging
will soon perceive the master mind in a very
mediocre performance. It is a basso-rilievo on
the front of a sarcophagus to the left. It repre-
sents the destruction of Niobe and her children.
Apollo and Diana are discharging their fatal
arrows upon them, and Niobe is seen folding her
youngest daughter to her lap and with her left
hand raising her mantle to shield her. Even in
the midst of all this scene of terror and wild
despair, the dying and the dead — all her own
children — her action is dignified. The action of
Gallery of the Capitol. 187
every figure is true to nature. The original must
have been the production of a great master, and
in the best period of art
' Here is also another sarcophagus on which is
sculptured in basso-rilievo a tragical event re-
nowned in Greek myth. The subject is Orestes
assisted by his friend Pylades, while punishing his
mother Clytemnestra with death for the murder of
his father Agamemnon. Orestes was commanded
by the oracle to execute this unnatural act, and
Pylades at the same time slew* Egistheus the
seducer of Clytemnestra. The obedience of
Orestes to the oracle brought upon him instant
retribution. The dreadful Furies pursued him
and drove him to madness. At last he received
mercy and was restored to peace. This basso-
rilievo must also have been the conception of a
great artist. There is an antique repetition of
this same work in the wall of a house here — ^also
one in the cortile of the Palazzo Giustiniani.
* As I take delight in bassi-rilievi we will now
pay a visit to the Capitol and examine a sarco-
phagus on which is represented the battle of the
Greeks and Amazons. The composition is full
of animation and masterly grouping. The portion
on the left was copied by Flaxman, who at his
1 88 Life of y ohn Gibson.
lectures gave it as a specimen of the beautiful con-
catenation of arms and legs. In this respect too
Flaxman was very clever, as we observe in his
* Here also is a fine basso-rilievo of Endymion
asleep whilst his faithful dog is on the watch. It
is a first-rate work.
* We have in Rome hundreds of bassi-rilievi —
but of inferior sculpture. The study of the reliefs
of the Elgin marbles enables us now to distinguish
the pure style di this class of art from the corrupt
and degenerate. We have scarcely any speci-
mens at Rome of the chaste flat manner of the
Athenian school Over one of the fireplaces at
the Villa Albani, there is a very beautiful flat
relief, representing Orpheus, Eurydice, and Mer-
cury. A repetition of it is at Naples. There is
a pure specimen at Grotta Ferrata — ^a beardless
philosopher seated — in alto-rilievo, but at the
same time flat, a most valuable specimen. It is
also interesting as having been found at the spot
where Cicero's villa is supposed to have stood. I
must not forget to name an alto-rilievo over
another fireplace in the Villa Albani, of Antinous.
It is perfectly beautiful, and I believe Winckelmann
considered it equal to the Apollo for style. The
The Dying Gladiator. 1 89
execution of the hair is perfect. Here is also a
large alto-rilievo, figures nearly life size — a young
hero on the ground defending himself, whilst the
victor, on a horse, is giving him a blow with his
sword. This work is pure Athenian.
' Returning to works in the round, the Capitol
contains a noble study for the artist — the statue
called " The Dying Gladiator." We perceive here
an original work ; not a repetition, and by a great
master. But there is no name upon it. Common
nature is here admirably modelled. The head is
of a low type, with high cheek bones, short flat
nose and a moustache. The Greeks represented
the barbarians less beautiful than themselves. The
action of this figure, while perfectly natural, is at
the same time full of variety from the judicious
arrangement of all its parts. It tells its own tale>
and affects you at once. As you gaze upon him
sympathy creeps over your senses. He bleeds —
his life flows slowly away — silent and calm — he is
sinking — will faint and die ! I have heard some
persons say that Greek art wants expression.
They want perception. The natural and expressive
touches the heart — keeps you upon earth — it is
the ideal only that can elevate the soul ; thus this
statue has many more admirers than the Apollo
1 90 Life of John Gibson.
Belvedere, which proves that the most sublime
and refined beauty does not so readily impress the
general beholder. The Apollo is unearthly, and
has only that degree of expression which angels
deign to show. The anger of the god is so slight,
you think it gone.
* In the same room is a fine portrait statue of
Zeno. The figure is a remarkable specimen of the
imitation of common nature, and the drapery is
very good. There is also a large bust here,
greatly admired, which goes under the name of
Ariadne, but it is, as Winckelmann says, Dionysos
' The statue called Flora is a fine example of
drapery. In the next room we admire the statue
of an Amazon. It is a repetition, the same as
that in the Vatican. The original must have been
a first-rate work. In this room there are two
statues of Centaurs ; small — in black marble : they
are of high excellence, and were found in the villa
of Hadrian. They are the works of Papia and
Aristea. Their names are inscribed in Greek.
* Here is a group of a child playing with a swan
— a repetition of it is in the Vatican. This little
work is very clever in composition, and very na-
tural. The plump little fellow has his arms tight
Statue of Agrippina. 191
round the neck of the swan, pulling it back with
all his might, while the bird is pushing itself for-
ward. This gives contrary action, variety, and
great animation to the whole. The struggle is
great on both sides. Winckelmann thinks that
this group is not by a great Greek artist because
they would not condescend to copy infantine forms,
which are nothing more than lumps of fat. The
great sculptors of our own day rarely sculpture fat
children. Statues of babies are subjects only for
women to admire — which they always do.
* In the next room we are struck with admira-
tion of the seated figure of Agrippina, wife of
Germanicus, and mother of Nero. Can we con-
template the noble representation of this lady
without remembering her sufferings and tragical
fate. Canova could not resist adopting the noble,
natural, and graceful attitude of this figure in his
portrait statue of Napoleon's mother, which is in
the collection of the Duke of Devonshire.
* In this collection there is another Amazon ;
different from those already mentioned. This one
is represented wounded under the right breast;
with her left hand she presses part of her dress
to the wound. How natural is the lifting of the
right arm to enable her better to see the wound.
192 Life of John Gibson.
* The collection of busts in the Capitol is very
rich, and most interesting^
* The collection of sculpture in the Villa Ludo-
visi is small. The principal work there is a large
group representing a barbarian chief in the act of
killing himself, after having first put his wife to
death, who is just breathing her last He has still
hold of her while she is sinking on her knees with
her drooping head and closing eyes. She seems
to have received death at the hands of her husband
with resignation. This scene is supposed to take
place on the field of battle — ^the hero is vanquished.
This work has been called Psetus and Arria. I
will venture to say that there is a fault in the com-
position of this group, namely in the manner of
raising the hand in order to plunge the weapon
into his throat This action hides the face of the
man from those who view the work in front It
is a law in this species of composition that the
front view of a group shall be uninterrupted and
not cut up by any crossing of parts. We know that
groups in the round cannot be equally perfect in
all views. The most difficult thing in our art is
the composition of a group. The inexperienced
sculptor attempts it more readily than one who
has worked longer.
Sculpture in the Villa Ludovisi. 1 93
* The next group we admire is that of a woman
conversing with a youth younger than herself.
The woman has her hair cropped short, a sign of
mourning. On that account it is supposed to
represent Electra and Orestes. The drapery is
good, and the form of the youth in fine style.
* The statue of a young man is also admired.
He is seated, with his hands clasped over his bent
knee, and with a sword. It is supposed to repre-
sent Mars. Cupid is crouched at his foot The
workmanship is fine, and the countenance noble.
* The colossal head of Juno in Greek marble is
highly admired for its divine beauty. The nose
has never been injured, which is rare in an antique
statue. This splendid work is a most valuable
study. There are many other statues of great
interest in the Ludovisi collection. Also a group
by a modern sculptor, life size, representing Pluto
carrying off Proserpine. It is the work of Bernini.
To see this group, which is a good specimen of
this master, by the side of the pure Greek works,
is valuable to the artist. It is like seeing vice and
virtue in juxtaposition.'
194 Z.//9 of John Gibson.
Illftess and Death of Mr, Benjamin Gibson — Death of Mrs,
WE must now advert to that gentle and
learned man Mr. Benjamin Gibson, called
by his brother * my classical dictionary/ He had
joined our sculptor in Rome, and lived with him
about fourteen years. The brothers were deeply
attached to each other, and had many points of
character in common — the same serenity of mind,
the same one-sidedness and simplicity. Benjamin
was of great use to John in solving classical ques-
tions, and was an archaeologist of no mean order ;
he also modelled ; but he was far less robust than
his brother, and in 1847 ^^ declining state of his
health began to form an occasional topic in Gib-
son's letters. The first mention is humorously
characteristic of both men. It is to Mrs. Sandbach.
* Rome, March 6, 1847. The basso-rilievo of the
Hours* (for Lord Fitzwilliam) *has so absorbed
all my soul and body that I have been as if shut
up from the world, and from all that belongs to it
Illness of Mr. Ben, 195
Still, mortality must come and interrupt me, and
disturb my happy dreams. I, who have no wife
nor child, nor dog nor cat to draw my thoughts
away from my art, have my brother, Mr. Ben, to
trouble me. He has been ill for weeks, got a bad
cold, and would take no remedy, have no doctor.
Nothing would he do. In the meantime a large
swelling came on his right side, external ; so I
pounced upon him with Dr. Pantaleoni, who has
much practice here with the English. . . •
' My present work, the model of the Hours, will
be finished in three weeks. I have never done a
work which has given me more pleasure than this.
The learned and the unlearned seem struck with
it Wyatt says it is full of go» I work at it with
delight, except my fits of trouble about Mr. Ben.
" You see," I said to him, " the consequence of
rejecting all medical aid." " Pago la pena," he
replied* I consider Mr. Ben as one of the most
amiable of human beings — too good for this world,
but he will take no care against colds, and when
ill he is a stubborn animal. However now he
does everything Pantaleoni orders.'
Later in the same summer Gibson expresses as
much anxiety as was his wont to express about
anything not of marble — his brother s state was
196 Life of y ohn Gibson.
more critical ; nevertheless he adds, * Mr. Ben is
writing his article upon the tomb found by Sir
Charles Fellowes in Lycia, and seems wonderfully
unconcerned about himself In November 1847,
on Gibson s return from England, he found him
better, but careless as before about cold. ' I will not
allow Mr. Ben to go to these cold galleries — it is
then he coughs — he would go directly if I were
not on the watch.' It was like one child watching
another and expressing its sentiments with most
unsensational coolness of speech, though ever act-
ing with infinite tenderness. * Mr. Ben is better —
comes to the studio, and will work — he suffers
night and day, but bears it with tranquillity. I
still fear that this is the illness that will carry him
off, but I think when his death comes he will go
calmly and quite reconciled. When he does
go he will have left a bad world.' Then on
Feb. 22, 1849, he writes from Civita Vecchia,
* The doctor is the cause of my coming here, to
see if the sea air will save Mr. Ben, who is very
bad, consuming away every day. For many
months we thought he would get well, but this
has been lately a very cold season, and it is the
keen air has re-attacked him. We have only been
here two days, and it is warm and delightful. He
Illness of Mr. Ben. 197
may recover, but still I fear his days are few —
when speaking he stops at every word — so little
When Gibson ran away from Rome to Leghorn
in June 1849, Mr. Ben was still at Civita Vecchia.
There his malady assumed a distressing form, of
which Gibson gives a diagnosis in a letter to his
friend Miss Parkes, June 19, 1849. * He was
more than two months at Civita Vecchia for the
sea air, which did him good — but a swelling came
over the lower rib — at his waist — rather in front,
of a dark purple colour, and so painful, night and
day. At last he could no longer walk — worse and
worse — and more reduced than ever. So, from
Leghorn I sailed to Civita Vecchia and brought
him away — that is to Leghorn. And an hour
after our arrival I fetched an English doctor, who
operated immediately and attended afterwards.
As Mr. Ben could not walk I drove him out
every evening in an open carriage along the sea-
side. He improved, but the heat became very
great, and began to make me ill too. So we left
Leghorn, and here we are at the Bagni di Lucca,
and Mr. Ben is getting vastly better and stronger.
For -months he has not been able to dress or un-
dress himself, so I engaged a servant man at
1 98 Life of John Gibson.
Rome to attend him, and this man is with us here
— and he is excellent ; so quiet and attentive.
* My landlady at Rome said to me one day that
she never knew such a being as **Signor Benia-
mino;" during the two years that he has been
suffering he has never uttered one word of com-
This good man died in August 185 1, at the
Baths of Lucca — during Gibson's absence in Eng-
land. He tripped over a stone in walking, fell on
his head, and died immediately. Gibson felt the
loss in his simple way deeply. ' When alone and
in bed I think of nothing but of poor Ben. How
am I to conquer mortal feelings "i '
Gibson raised a simple monument to his brother,
with an epitaph which had no exaggeration. * He
resided fourteen years at Rome, where his learn-
ing, amiability y and virttce made him beloved and
revered! And he proposed to add as an appro-
priate text, */ thank my God upon every remetn-
brance of thee! But in the Italy of that time, as
in Rome still now, no stone marking the grave of
a Protestant could bear an inscription without the
permission of the Censor. And it is worthy of
remark that this text was interdicted. Gibson
says, * I knew that no passage expressive of salva-
Successive Bereavements. 1 99
tion would be allowed, but now they have become
more rigorous and will not permit any passage at
all from Scripture to be put upon the tombs of
Protestants/ It was a strange retaliation by which
those who have been most anxious to present the
Holy Scriptures to Italy were denied the smallest
quotation from it on their own tombs !
Meanwhile another bereavement was preparing
for Gibson. Mrs. Sandbach was struggling with
one of the most painful ills to which flesh is heir.
Hopes and fears alternate in his letters to her —
hope predominating — for his mind readily threw
oif what was uncongenial. In one of his last
letters to her— March 1852 — is this passage: 'I
shall be very anxious to hear how you get on.
Oh ! do not join the angels yet — we shall weep
bitter tears whenever you do join them. How
wrong of us ! How difficult to conquer our
nature!' On June ist he started for England,
but he did not see the sweet lady again. She
joined * the glorious company ' on the 23rd of
To those who doubted whether Gibson had deep
feelings the following pathetic extract may be con-
vincing. It is addressed to Miss Lloyd, a mutual
friend of Mrs. Sandbach and himself. * Eartham,
200 Life of John Gibson,
20th August, 1852. . . The moment I arrived in
London, I wrote to Mr. Sandbach to say that
I was ready to start for Hafodunos — that I waited
to hear from him. When he mentioned me to her
she said, " It is too late ; give my dear love to him
— I hope we shall meet in heaven." She died
that same night at two o'clock — in her sleep —
' After she was buried Mr. Sandbach wished
me to go there to him, but I could not rouse my-
self to go to the dwelling of the departed One — to
sit in her room — every room of hers a desert —
every chair empty of her dear self — the flower
garden without her — the trees under which we so
often sat casting their shade over her empty seat
No, I could not go there, nor can I escape the
gloomy, heavy desolation which hangs over me,
follows me like my shadow wherever I go.'
Prospects of high-class Sculpture in England — A Roman Educa
Hon — Proceedings at Academy of St, Luke — Group of the
Queen — Statue of Venus — Gibson as Pygmalion — Colour —
Statue of Pandora — of Bacchus — Portrait Statue Coloured —
Exhibition of 1862 — Memorial to Prirue Consort,
AS one object of Gibson's autobiographical
notes was to plead the necessity for a dif-
ferent mode of study as regards English students
of sculpture, we feel it right, as we have said
before, to give the impressions which the public
monuments in London made upon him after his
long residence in Rome.
* The prospect of advancing sculpture of a high
class in England seems to me to be far distant.
If I saw a young sculptor of ardent ambition I
should tell him from my experience what would be
necessary to become great in the higher walks of
the art — namely a Roman education for several
years, under the tuition of a great master. At the
age of thirty he ought to be prepared by his ac-
quired knowledge and practice to begin a work
for posterity. The greatest sculptors of this age
have studied at Rome. The Governments of all
202 Life of yohn Gibson.
the chief countries of Europe, excepting that of
England, send pensioned students to Rome,* and
that is why the style of the public monuments in
my own country is generally so feeble. The
English Government spends large sums to erect
public monuments, but contributes nothing towards
the training of the student. . .
* During my visits to England I have acquired
a knowledge of the state of sculpture there, and of
the manner in which the commissions for public
monuments are conducted; and I feel myself jus-
tified in expressing my sentiments freely, however
presumptuous and ungracious they may be con-
sidered by some. If I can direct attention to a
most fatal impediment to the advancement of
the art of sculpture in our country I ought to do so
* Speaking from an experience of forty years'
study and practice at Rome, where I had also the
advantage of intercourse with the greatest artists
and most enlightened connoisseurs, I have come
to the conviction that one great evil as regards
the art in England arises from the class of com-
mittee to which the decision in such matters is
* Gibson appends the following list of those who send, or did
send, pensioned students to Rome : France, Austria, Prussia,
Saxony, Russia, Tuscany, Naples, Carrara, Spain, Mexico, Den-
mark, Sweden, Belgium.
entrusted. These committees are composed of
miscellaneous individuals, united only in the com-
mon qualification of having no knowledge of or
connexion with the art beyond that which most
educated individuals possess. In the course of
my life, however, I have never known anyone who
has not been professionally engaged in the study
of art capable of j udging of grandeur of style, of
composition, of harmony of lines, and of the intri-
cacies of drapery. Yet the judges appointed to
decide upon the models submitted for the Wel-
lington monument had, on that important occasion,
not a single sculptor among them. At the same
time not one of the celebrated sculptors of
Europe sent models there.
* At the Academy of St. Luke (in Rome) the
system of competition for public monuments is
condemned. It is known that the greatest sculp-
tors will not compete, and for two reasons — firstly
because they are much employed, and secondly be-
cause they will not enter into competition with
young men unknown to fame. Competition is
calculated to bring forth only mediocrity.
* I take this occasion to mention the mode of
proceeding at the Academy of St Luke when the
members are required to pronounce judgment on
the specimens of sculpture and painting offered for
204 Life of John Gibson.
the prizes. All the academicians — painters as well
as sculptors — assemble and examine the models.
When it is time to decide which specimen of mo-
delling is entitled to the prize, the secretary rings
his little bell, and all the painters retire, leaving the
sculptors to make up their minds alone ; for the
latter do not consider that painters are competent
to assist them. When the turn of the painters
come, they in like manner exclude the sculptors —
each is judged by his own profession.
* From my long experience of the Academy of
St Luke, my conviction is that they discharge
their respective duties with ability and fairness,
being always tenacious of the honour of the body.
Frequently designs from the Roman provinces
are sent here for judgment, and I have never heard
any dissatisfaction expressed. The members are
composed principally of Italians, with a few French-
men and Germans, and one Englishman — that is
myself At present Tenerani is the president;
he was a pupil of Thorwaldsen. I consider him
one of the first sculptors now in Europe. His
style is pure and beautiful, but the works which
will consign his name to posterity are chiefly of a
religious character. He has also executed a few
classical subjects which are worthy of the highest
Group in Princes Chamber. 205
commendation, while his portrait statues are of
first-rate excellence/ . . .
* I will now return to my own works. In
1850 I was informed that it was intended to
erect a statue of Her Majesty within the Houses
of Parliament — to be placed in a recess in the
Prince s Chamber. I was told at the same time
that it was desired that I should turn my
thoughts to the treatment of the subject The
original scheme was for a single statue, but
Prince Albert, on inspecting the recess intended
for it, pronounced it to be too wide for a single
figure. He was right His Royal Highness there-
fore, in the character of President of the Commis-
sion for the decoration of the Houses of Parlia
ment, proposed that two allegorical figures should
be added, so as to form an important group. I
accordingly sent a design from Rome representing
Her Majesty seated upon her throne, with her
sceptre in her left hand, and a laurel crown — the
emblem of the reward of merit — in her right On
her right hand the figure of Wisdom, on her left
that of Justice. These figures stand a little below
the throne, giving a pyramidical form to the group.
Certain geometrical forms are necessary in com-
position. After this design had been considered,
2o6 Life o/yohn Gibson.
his Royal Highness suggested that, the Sovereign
being a lady, the figure of Wisdom might be ex-
changed for that of Clemency. I was pleased
with this correction, and so were others who were
entitled to give an opinion. Considering the im-
portance of the work it was necessary that I should
come to England to confer face to face with the
architect on the size of the statues and on other
points. On arriving in London Sir Charles Barry
assigned me a small room in the great building to
make my sketch-model, which I completed in a
month. Prince Albert watched my progress in
the work, coming occasionally with members of
the Government, and pointing out to them what
he considered its merits. This model was adopted
by the Commission, and I was authorised to ex-
ecute the work. No limit as to time was assigned
me — a condition to which I had always felt the
greatest objection — and I completed the monu-
ment in five years. It stands in the Prince's
Chamber, where it receives a fine light, which is
of the first importance for sculpture. Sir Charles
Barry had proportioned the figures well to the
size of the room — the large dimensions have an
imposing effect, and I am happy that my work
is so well seen.
Group in Princes Chamber. 207
* I now venture to make a few remarks on this
work, even at the risk of their subjecting me to
the charge of vanity. I think that the monu-
ment of the Queen in the Parliament House is
worthy the consideration of all home-bred English
sculptors. It is a specimen from the Roman
school, that great college to which, as I have said,
all European Governments, England excepted,
send pensioned students. In this group I have
aimed at the highest style of monumental art —
severe simplicity, rich and broad drapery, and
correctness of outline throughout the whole. I
was requested to write a description of the group
for visitors to read when surveying the monument
I wrote the following.
' ** In the Prince s Chamber is represented in
marble her most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria,
sitting upon her throne, holding her sceptre and
a laurel crown — that is, governing and rewarding.
The back of the throne is surmounted by lions,
expressive of British strength and courage, and
the footstool is adorned by sea-horses, to signify
dominion upon the ocean. The horse is an
emblem of war. On the right of the Sovereign
stands Justice; on the left Clemency. Justice
holds the sword and balance — round her neck is
2o8 Life o/yohn Gibson.
suspended the image of Truth. In Egypt die
judge, when pronouncing the sentence of death,
put on his neck a small golden image of Truth.
The expression of Justice is inflexible,* while that
of Clemency is full of sympathy and sadness —
sad for the constant sins that come to her
knowledge, while with lenity she keeps the sword
sheathed and offers the olive-branch, the sign of
peace. On the front of the pedestal is a bas-relief
of Commerce. On the right side is Science de-
signated by a youth pondering over geometry. On
the left a figure denoting the useful arts. In the
background are represented the steam-engine, the
telegraph-wire, and other objects. The figures are
colossal ; that of Her Majesty being eight feet high
— the two supporting figures are above seven." . . .
* After Rome had subsided into quiet under the
presence of French troops, Mr. Joseph Neeld came
to Rome and frequently visited my studio. At
last he expressed a wish to have a statue by my
hand. The subject he chose was a Venus — to be
represented nude, but with some drapery modestly
arranged, without sacrificing too much of the form.
After Mr. Neeld s departure this subject began to
*-He told a friend that a woman who sold fruit in the market,
opposite the Pantheon, served him as a model for his Justice.
Statue of Uenus, 209
occupy my thoughts by day and by night, as all
the works I have executed have done. I chose
a standing position, as most favourable for the
figure, and for the display of long, flowing lines.
As to the action I had often remarked that ladies
when holding a fan or any light object generally
place their hands in repose in front of the person.
Thus I made my Venus stand, with the golden
apple, which she holds quietly in her left hand.
From her left arm hangs her garment reaching to
the ground, but this is not merely a piece of
drapery, it is the tunic-mantle (Chitonopheros)
worn by the Greek ladies, which I cut out for the
purpose. It is so arranged as to cover modestly
the figure, not placed as if purposely to conceal,
but falling accidentally.
* Before this statue left my studio, a gentleman
came to Rome — Mr. Preston of Liverpool — with
his young wife. They desired to have a repetition
of the Goddess of Love and Beauty. This repe-
tition I kept in hand for five years, working on
the marble whenever I felt disposed, and referring
often to nature. Thus it became, I may say, the
most carefully laboured work I ever executed, for
I wrought the forms up to the highest standard
of the ideal. As I laboured on, ever panting for
2 1 o Life of yohn Gibson.
perfection, I fixed so many degrees of the circle
for the curves and forms, and the fewer the
degrees, the more refined and soft the undulat-
ing lines became. The following passage from
Winckelmann was always in my mind. " The
forms of a beautiful body are determined by lines
the centre of which is constantly changing, and
which, if continued, would never describe circles.
They are consequently more simple, but also
more complex than a circle which, however large
or small it may be, always has the same centre,
and either includes others or is included in others.
This diversity was sought after by the Greeks in
works of all kinds, and their discernment of its
beauty led them to introduce the same system
' even into the forms of their .utensils and vases,
the easy and elegant outline of which is drawn
after the same rule, that is by a line the centre of
which must be found by means of several circles.
Thus all these works have an elliptical figure, and
therein consists their beauty. The greater unity
there is in the junction of the forms and in the
flowing of one out of another, the greater is the
beauty of the whole."
* The expression I endeavoured to give my
Venus was that spiritual elevation of character
Gibson as Pygmalion. 211
which results from purity and sweetness, combined
with an air of unaffected dignity and grace.
When this replica for Mr. Preston was finished
I took the liberty to decorate it in a fashion un-
precedented in modern times. I tinted the flesh
like warm ivory — scarcely red — the eyes blue, the
hair blond, and the net which contains the hair
golden. " And her fair locks were woven up in
gold," Spenser. The blue fillets encircling the
head are edged with gold, and she has gold ear-
rings. Her armlet is also of gold, and the apple
in her hand, which has a Greek inscription on it
" To the most beautiful." The drapery is left the
white colour of the marble — the border ornament
is pink and blue. At her feet is a tortoise, on the
back of which is inscribed in Greek " Gibson
made me at Rome." When all my labour was
complete I often sat down quietly and alone before
my work, meditating upon it and consulting my
own simple feelings. I endeavoured to keep
myself free from self-delusion as to the effect of
the colouring. I said to myself ** Here is a little
nearer approach to life — it is therefore more im-
pressive — yes — yes indeed she seems an ethereal
being with her blue eyes fixed upon me!" At
moments I forgot that I was gazing at my own
212 Life of John Gibson,
production ; there I sat before her, long and often*
How was I ever to part with her !
* I am convinced that the Greek taste was right
in colouring their sculpture. The warm glow is
agreeable to the eye, and so is the variety obtained
by it The flesh is of one tone, the hair of another ;
the colouring of the eyes gives animation, and the
ornaments on the drapery are distinctly seen. All
these are great advantages. The moderns, being
less refined than the Greeks in matters of art, are
from long and stupid custom reconciled to the
white statue. The flesh is white, the hair is white,
the eyes are white, and the drapery white — this
monotonous cold object is out of harmony with
everything that surrounds it. It is not necessary
that I should here give quotations from classical
authors alluding to the polychromatic practice.
All these are published and well known — as also
the fact that fragments of fine Greek art have been
found with traces of colour. Those who think
that the Greeks did not colour sculpture in their
high period of art are grossly mistaken. The
Greek public were accustomed to see sculpture in
gold and ivory, with the eyes of coloured glass,
and of precious stones. A cold white statue would
therefpre have appeared incomplete to that people.
Trial.of Mrs. Prestojts, patience. 213
But setting aside Greek authorities I can say that
the effect of colour deHcately applied, and with
judgment, charms me. All the sculptors in Rome
and the painters too, including Cornelius, agreed
with me — also Visconti — but the sculptors said,
" We dare not follow your example, lest we might
not sell our works." I replied, " I will fight it out,
and go on."
* I retained the Venus in my studio for four
years after she was completed — a proceeding on
my part which put Mrs. Preston's patience to a
severe trial. I received several angry letters fromi
that amiable lady. At last she asked me, point
blank, whether I did not think I was using her
very ill. I immediately confessed my sin and
replied, " There is no doubt that I am using you
abominably ill — yes — but the truth is I cannot
screw up my courage to send away my Goddess.
It is almost as difficult for me to part with her as
it would be for Mr. Preston to part with you." I
then copied her out some verses upon the Venus
written by the Rev. E. S.,* hoping that they would
keep her quiet for some time. However, all this
* Oh, pure Ideal of the perfect grace
That is in woman, such a form as thine
In glorious Hellas did young fancy trace.
Till beauties more than human seemed divine.
214 Life of John Gibson.
made very little impression on the lady, and at
last I was obliged to send her the statue.
* I will now continue my artistic proceedings.
In the winter of 1855 the Duke of Wellington and
his amiable Duchess visited the Eternal City, and
often came to my studio in the Via Fontanella.
The Duke expressed a wish to have my Venus,
but she was not to be disposed of. Then he
intimated his desire that I should execute for him
some coloured statue, and proposed the subject of
Pandora. His desire was that I should represent
her at the moment when she starts into life — her
dawning consciousness of existence — nude, with
In such a fonp, seeking her destined home
On high Olympus, from the azure wave
Rose Aphrodite, daughter of the foam.
The hearts of gods and mortals to enslave.
In such a form, to win the glittering prize
By Discord's hand amid the fairest thrown.
Unveiled before the Trojan's dazzled eyes
She claimed the palm of beauty for her own.
Oh, wondrous might of genius to inspire
The lifeless marble with a living ray,
Flashed from the source of its own genial fire.
Which lights the poet's heart with endless day.
Oh touch of art ennobling ! who can gaze
Upon that matchless form, that modest mien.
Nor feel the power his inmost thoughts to raise,
Nor learn to reverence purity serene.
Myth of Pandora. 215
some drapery hanging from her arm. I expressed
my apprehension that, so treated, the subject
would not be sufficiently intelligible. " Let a box
be placed at her feet," said the Duke, ** and let
her hands be open in an attitude of surprise at the
discovery of her new existence." At once I saw
that his Grace had imbibed an erroneous im-
pression respecting the best mode of treatment
I said to him in answer that I would model a
* Although the myth of Pandora is so well
known, I will recapitulate the story, as it will show
us what is necessary in treating the subject :
* By Jove's desire arose the bashful maid,
The cestus Pallas clasped, the robe anranged
Adored Persuasion, and the Graces round
Her tapered limbs with golden jewels hung.
Round her fair brow the lovely-tressed Hours
A garland twined of spring's purpureal flowers.
The whole attire Minerva's graceful art
Disposed, adjusted, formed to every part.* — Hesiod,
* It is evident that the best moment of time to
represent Pandora is when she is thus attired by
the blue-eyed goddess, assisted by the Graces, and
by reverent Persuasion, and crowned with flowers
by the lovely Hours. Thus I have endeavoured
2 1 6 Life of jfohn Gibson.
to represent her, with the fatal box in her hand —
drooping her head in deep thought, her eyes
turned way from the box, while her hand is ready
to raise the lid. The figure is motionless, but her
mind is in full activity, labouring under the
harassing feelings of intense curiosity, fear, and
perplexity. H er thoughts have dwelled too long on
what she bears. The box is still unopened, but
Pandora is already lost We are the sufferers — but
Hope did not escape with the evil brood — she
stayed behind, and remains to the last with us. . . .
* As the heat of Rome was increasing I left for
England, taking with me three photographs of my
Pandora. On arriving in London I waited on the
Duke of Wellington and submitted them to him.
He expressed his conviction of the truth of what
had been reported to him by friends in Rome,
namely that I had produced a beautiful figure;
** but," said he, " Mr. Gibson, you have not
followed my idea." " No," I replied, " I have
followed my own!' " You are very stubborn," he
remarked. " Duke," returned I, " I am a Welsh-
man, and all the world knows that we are a
* Before I left London I received a letter from
his Grace, expressing with great courtesy his dis-
Statue of Bacchus, 2 1 7
^appointment at my not treating the subject accord-
ing to his view, and asking, if it did not incon-
venience me, to be allowed to decline it. This
gave me no inconvenience, for Lady Marian
Alford, a lady of true knowledge in the arts, and
who had watched the progress of the statue with
much interest at Rome, had requested, in case the
Duke should not be satisfied, to become its pos-
sessor. Lady Marian had become converted to
polychromy, and I therefore coloured the Pandora,
* In the year 1856 the Marquis of Londonderry
came to Rome with his lady, and often visited
my studio. His Lordship was one of the many
who did not approve of my new system of colour*
ing my statues. Still, he was desirous of possessing
a statue by me. He therefore proposed that the
subject should be some youthful male beauty of
the first class —a god — Bacchus. " That will do,
by Jove!" said L "Yes, I will undertake this
subject with delight — but it is improper to repre-
sent him according to the vulgar idea, in a state of
inebriation." Accordingly, I have given Dionysos,
the. son of Jove, standing, with godlike dignity
and youthful grace — his sceptre (the Thyrsis) in
his left hand, and in his right the cup of wine.
The god is not going to drink, but he is bestowing
2 1 8 Life of John Gibson.
the gift of the juice of the grape. His head is
richly adorned with ivy, and as he is the " lover
of flowers " there are flowers mixed in his wreath ;
a fillet is entwined round his brow, and falls with
his locks on each side of the neck. " The golden-
* The expression of his godlike countenance is
that of tranquillity and sweetness ; the upper and
lower eyelids are a little swelled, which gives soft-
ness and a slight touch of dreamy voluptuousness
to his rather feminine countenance, whilst his lips
are slightly apart, "as if a word were hovering
there." His form is purely abstract, therefore
refined to the utmost
* Besides the male models I employed a female
one too, so as to enter thoroughly into the spirit of
the Greek idea, that Apollo, Dionysos, and Eros
are androgynous. I have introduced a lyre at his
feet ** The Muse leader,** " The dance rouser."
For giving a lyre to Bacchus I was called to ac-
count by three English gentlemen of high educa-
tion, who maintained that there were no statues
of that god represented with that instrument I
confessed that I had never seen such a thing, but
for all that I had my authority, for Calistratus
describes a bronze figure of Bacchus by Praxiteles
Stattte oj Bacchus. 219
with a lyre — and that bronze was coloured.
People may say truly that we have done with the
gods of the Pantheon, and that these subjects no
longer interest us or touch our feelings ; but I say
that we sculptors have still to do with these marble
deities, for they teach us all that is beautiful and
sublime in our art. Those people who object are
influenced by their religious feelings, and take no
pleasure in high art, but it is beauty and perfection
of the human form that the sculptor labours for.
'After Lord Londonderry had given me the
commission for the statue of Bacchus, he came to
my studio and took leave of me — and as he was
leaving he turned and said, " Now don't you go
and paint my statue." I made no reply.
* The following winter, when modelling the Bac-
chus, Lord and Lady Portarlington were in Rome.
At a large evening party I saw Lady Portarlington
and went up and made my bow to her. She said,
" Is it true that you have told some persons that
you intend to paint my brother s statue of Bac-
chus?" "Yes," said I, immediately, "it is true."
" But my brother told you not to paint it." "He
did so," I replied, " but I am determined to colour
it" Her ladyship appeared displeased, and said
2 20 Life of John Gibson.
Gibson had also the opportunity of applying*
his theory of colour to a portrait statue — that of
the Hon. Mrs. Murray, afterwards Countess of
Beauchamp. Of this lady, when in Rome, he
modelled a full length figure with a soft shawl
arranged low round the skirt of the figure, giving
beautiful drapery. This work was executed for
Lady Beauchamp s mother the Baroness Bray,
one of Gibson's kind friends. Hearing of the
admiration his coloured Venus excited in Rome,
Lady Beauchamp, on his coming to England,
authorised him to tint the statue of herself After
this irrevocable step had been taken the Countess
took alarm in consequence of some adverse dinner-
party criticism, and summoned Gibson to the
rescue, who endeavoured to infuse his own pug-
nacious indifference into her mind. ' " Do as I do.
Lady Beauchamp — fight it out with them — what
does it matter whether they like it or not ? " I
then requested some friends of my own to see the
statue, then at Lady Bray s house in Great Stan-
hope Street — including Sir Charles and Lady
Eastlake, Mrs. Jameson, Mr. Cockerell and others
— Lady Beauchamp herself being present The
impression it made on them reassured her lady-
ship. I was told that Mr. Cockerell afterwards
Statue of Lady Beauchamp, ill
spoke with approbation of the effect of my statue
at a meeting of artists/
It was in the Great Exhibition of 1862 that the
world had an opportunity of inspecting Gibson s
new heresy. In a light, quadrangular temple, con-
structed with the utmost judgment and taste by
Mr. Owen Jones, three of his tinted statues — «
the Venus belonging to Mrs. Preston, the Pandora
to Lady Marian Alford, and the Cupid to Mr.
Holford — were seen to the utmost advantage ,'
the fourth place being occupied by Miss Hosmer s
Zenobia, a finely draped figure guiltless of any
stain. This was truly, as Gibson expressed him-
self, * A bone for the scribblers to pick.' And not
for the scribblers only, but for the talkers too.
And those perhaps talked most who knew least
For every young lady at dinner-table or in ball-
room in that London season of 1862 felt herself
called upon to tell her partner what she thought
of ' Gibson's coloured Venus,' while the facility
with which judgment was pronounced on these
occasions was almost enviable to those who had
greater difficulty or diffidence in delivering an
opinion. In truth the question lay totally beyond
the English public, who at best have scarcely ad-
vanced, even as regards pictorial art, beyond the
222 Life of y ohn Gibson.
lowest step of the aesthetic ladder — ^the estimate of
a subject But here the subjects offered nothing to
amuse the eye or touch the fancy. Grace, dignity,
beauty, truth, and difficulties innumerable over-
come, were, it is true, to be discovered here — but
what were they to an uneducated multitude who
infinitely preferred, as in Monti's veiled heads, to
see difficulties evaded altogether.* It may be
safely asserted that, but for the novelty and catch-
word of the colour, these exquisite works of art
would have been passed over with utter indiffer-
ence by nine-tenths of those who crowded to stare
at them. At the same time there is no doubt that
among those who hung silently and long over the
rail which protected the temple from the pressure
of the multitude, there were a few who imbibed
new and elevating impressions of which they could
perhaps give little account to themselves, and still
less to others.
Gibson deeply felt the death of the great and
good Prince Consort — for whom he had personally
the highest admiration and respect At the time
when the design for a memorial in Hyde Park
* No depreciation of Signor Monti's powers is here intended.
No one set a juster value on his veiled figures than this gifted
Memorial to the Prince Consort^ 223
gave Her Majesty much anxiety, he was applied
to for his opinion. I am permitted to copy his
answer to General the Hon. Charles Grey.
* Rome, Febniary 19, 1862.
* Dear Sir — I have the pleasure to acknowledge
the honor of your kind letter, which I have read
with deep interest
* I fear you have too much confidence in my
judgment ; however, I willingly do my humble
duty and express what I feel on the important
* Then, with due submission, I confess I do not
consider the appropriation of an Egyptian obelisk
to the memory of the Prince the best thing to do.
The obelisk did well with Egyptian temples ; one
harmonized with the other ; but surrounding its
base with our sculpture groups is out of harmony
— inconsistent mixture ! Would the Greeks with
their genius and taste for beauty have erected at
Athens an Egyptian obelisk in honor of any of
their great men "i Let us imitate the Greeks.
* Now would not some architectural display,
classical and pure, be more in harmony with the
good and correct taste of the departed One ? A
classical mausoleum would be an object of beauty,
224 Life of yohn Gibson.
and much more calculated to draw the admiration
of the multitude. Behold the graceful monument
towering high upon many steps, surrounded by
Ionic columns — you enter, and you behold the
statue of the Prince sitting in repose and medita-
tion, with a book in his hand. In the niches
which surround you are allegorical statues — em-
blems of the Prince's virtues, and of his intellectual
powers. There are those who advocate the exclu-
sion of allegory from this art, that is they wish to.
do away with the language of sculpture. I have
had a proof that the Prince knew better than those
' The opinion of two or three of the first-rate
architects would be the most valuable ; men of
practice and knowledge in their profession. ISir
Charles Eastlake, though not an architect, is a
man of knowledge and good taste ; there are
many who sit in judgment without real judgment
— these are the most numerous.
* The statues ought to be in one style, classical
and pure, to be in harmony with the whole ;
the sculptors carefully chosen. There should
be made a model of the best design, so as to
enable the Queen to have a more clear idea of the
Memorial to the Prince Consort. 225
' A responsibility has fallen upon Her Majesty.
She has the power 6i naming her choice, and she
has a feeling for the beautiful.
' I have the honor to be, dear sir,
* Your obedient servant,
Subsequently, when the present design for the
memorial had been chosen, and the groups for
sculpture determined upon, Her Majesty wished
that Gibson should undertake the group of Europe
— but he felt that * after having been forty-six years
roasted in Rome ' he could not venture to under-
take a work which would require him to spend the
winter in England. He offered afterwards to
make the model in Rome and send it to be ex-
ecuted in England, but by that time the group had
been given over to another sculptor.
226 Life ofyohn Gibson.
GibsorCs Pupily Miss Hosmer — His Railway and other Adventures
— Analysis of his Art — His wonderfully executed Drawings —
Summary of his Character — Illness — Death — Will in favour
of Royal Academy,
WE may now allude to the only pupil Gibson
ever professed to teach, and in whom he
may justly be said to have raised a living monu-
ment to himself. Miss Harriet Hosmer, whose
name is widely known on two continents, was the
only surviving child of a physician at Boston.
Her mother, who died before her child could
remember her, had a great love of art — her father
was fertile in mechanical resources, and a man of
great wit and humour. The young lady managed
to inherit the best gifts of both parents. At an
early age she resolved to devote her life to the
profession of a sculptor, and showed a determina-
tion of character not likely to be diverted from
any intelligent purpose she might form. As a
child she was of delicate health, and was therefore
kept much in the open air, where she would lie on
her face by the river side and fashion her plastic
Harriet Hosmer. 22 j
ideas in mud. Later, she studied anatomy for
half a year at St. Louis — modelled, cast, and
also cut some marble busts entirely herself
Mr. Greenough, the American sculptor, who had
resided at Florence, on being consulted as to who
was the sculptor fittest to instruct her, instantly
named Gibson. Her father consented, remarking
' The best is good enough for you.'
Accordingly the father and daughter made their
way to Europe, to Rome, and to Gibson's studio.
Frequently have we heard Gibson relate the tale
of his first visit from the strange, monosyllabic
American girl, * Young Miss,' as he called her,
to whom he set an experimental task to test her
modelling powers. Her obvious ability and firm-
ness of purpose broke down all his objections to
receiving her as a pupil, which he ultimately did
for no other consideration than that of the interest
her talent and character inspired in him. As
Canova had generously done for him, thirty-six
years before, so did he for her — teaching her all he
knew himself; while she on her part unconsciously
repeated at the outset of her apprenticeship the
trait which Gibson has related of himself at the
same period. For he told her, as Canova had
told him, to make the most of a few days in seeing
228 Life of John Gibson,
the sights of Rome before entering his studio.
* I shall come to-morrow/ was the laconic reply,
and so she did. And it is interesting to have the
pupil's account too. * The first morning I entered
Mr. Gibson's studio (as a pupil) was the beginning
of the year 1853 — he was working upon the knee
of his Wounded Amazon — finishing it in marble.
He laid down his chisel (how well I can see him
now!) and received me most kindly— showed me
all the statues in his studio, and then said " Now
I will show you the room where you are to work —
a little room, but as big as you are yourself" He
always poked fun at me about my size. He
impressed me as being very kind, but his peculiar
curt manner rather filled me with awe. I did not at
first discover that he dearly loved a little nonsense,
and I was extremely demure and solemn with
him — ^but that solemnity did not last long, and I
never talked more nonsense with anyone than
with the grave, staid Master. Apropos of the
knee of the Amazon, I always told him I was
more fond of that statue than of any other, from
its being connected with my first impression of
him. He said I always looked sentimental when
I saw it.
' I never saw him so well pleased with a bit of
Harriet Hosmer. 229
silliness as once when I wrote upon a bust in
his studio which Miss Lloyd was copying in clay,
He discovered it after I had left
the room, and remained till Miss Lloyd came in
purposely to see the effect I know he never
' As to his mode of teaching me he said he
could best apply rules as he worked, and often he
has made me sit by him by the hour together as
he modelled. He was very funny sometimes in
his criticisms. I remember asking him to come
and see the sketch of Zenobia which I was then
preparing. He looked at it for some time in
silence, and I began to flatter myself that I should
have some praise, but the only remark he deigned
to make was, " Yes — there is such a thing as
equilibrium.*' " But," said I, " this is only to see
how the drapery comes in." ** Under all circum-
stances," says he, " there is such a thing as equili-
brium — yes — I will leave you to your troubles." '
Never was generous master more gratefully
repaid — never was there a more interesting relation
between teacher and scholar — or, it may be added,
between man and woman. In certain respects the
characters of each were identical — namely in love
230 Life of John Gibson.
of truth, and in devotion to their common occu-
pation. Otherwise two persons could scarcely be
found less alike, or who more keenly relished
each other s idiosyncracies. To the shrewd, racy,
Transatlantic young lady the serene simplicity
and guilessness of the sculptor were matters as
much of the keenest mirth as of the profoundest
respect — while her ever playful wit and indepen-
dant, origiucd ways were a new zest in a life which
Time had begun to rob of its earlier companions
and interests. In matters of art Gibson found in
her the most tractable of scholars — in matters of
life and action, the devotion of a daughter, mingled
with the shrewd sense of one who knew intuitively
what he could never learn. Meanwhile the Gib-
soniana of his innocent mistakes and foibles, as
given by her lively tongue, will never be forgotten
by those who have listened to them ; all tempered
as they now are by the pathos investing one who
is heard no more. Had Miss Hosmer's avocations
permitted it no one would have ventured to com-
pete with her in editing the story of his life, and
in defining the beauty of his character and of his
No one needed such bright and helpful com-
panionship more than Gibson. In his own studio
Railway Mishaps. 231
he could take very tolerable care of himself, but
out of it he was riot fit to go a day's journey alone.
MissHosmer s definition of him, which heenjoyedas
much as any who heard it, was frequently applicable.
* He is a god in his studio, but God help him
when he is out of it' Gibson had in some mea-
sure acquired the art of * vettura ' travelling, but
the mysteries and irrevocable precisions of the
railway were too much for him. It was easy to
start him in the right train and with a right ticket
in his hand, but he had an unfortunate knack of
getting out either too soon or too late for his par-
ticular destination. The story of one journey used
to be in great request with his friends, and more
especially that part where, having, as he thought,
safely accomplished the transit, he desired a porter
to show him the way to the cathedral * But the
scoundrel would have it that there was no cathedral
in the place, and at last had the impudence to ask
me if I knew where I was ! Then I discovered
that instead of being in Chichester, where I had
a particular appointment with the Dean and
Chapter, I was safe in Portsmouth, where there
was no cathedral at all — ^no — none at all.'
Another story of a vain attempt to reach Went-
worth, the seat of Earl Fitzwilliam, was equally
232 Life of John Gibson.
in request with his hearers, and has been thus
alluded to by himself in his biographical notes.
* It was from the residence of Mr. Cheney of
Badger Hall in Shropshire (how he got there he
does not say) that I proceeded to Wentworth.
The train soon stopped at a smsdl station, and
seeing some people get out, I also descended,
when, in a moment, the train moved on — faster
and faster — and left me standing on the platform.
I walked a few paces backwards and forwards in
disagreeable meditation. " I wish to heaven,"
thought I to myself, " that I was on my way back
to Rome with a vetturino ! " Then I observed a
policeman darting his eyes upon me, as if he would
look me through. Said I to the fellow, " Where
is that cursed train gone to "i It's off with my
luggage, and here am I !" The man asked me
the name of the place where I took my ticket
" I don't remember," said I ; "how should I know
the name of any of these places — it is as long as
my arm — I have it written down somewhere."
" Pray, sir," said the man after a little pause, " are
you a foreigner ?" " No," I replied, ** I am not a
foreigner — I'm a sculptor." Then I told him that
I had been living at Rome all my liife and was only
here on a visit He seemed struck, and said that
The Number Three. 233
his father had been a sculptor too, and had worked
for Flaxman. So then I found him changed in
manner — no longer so sharp and laconic/
A few such mishaps as these increased kind
Mrs. Huskisson's vigilance, and Gibson never left
her hospitable care without previously written
directions. But if the journey were for any dis-
tance no directions in the world availed. When
Mr. Williams, or Miss Hosmer, or any other
friend, were unable to accompany him from Rome
to England, a courier had him. in charge. And
even when escorted by friends his ways were
occasions of interminable amusement On a tour
in Switzerland, where Miss Hosmer formed one of
the party, she extended her usual care of the
Master to his luggage as well. That consisted of
three pieces, one of which was a hat-box. But
Miss Hosmer soon observed that this box was
never opened, and thus it remained, inviolate, to
the end of the journey. Returned to Rome she
ventured to ask what object had been served by
giving the hat-box the tour, and herself the trouble
of looking after it Gibson calmly replied, * The
Greeks had a great respect for the number three —
yes — the Greeks — ^for the number three,' and that
was all the explanation she ever obtained.
234 Life of John Gibson.
The same vigilance which was necessary on
journeys had to be exercised over him as regarded
London engagements. After accepting an engage-
ment to dine — for the express purpose of meeting
people he particularly wished to see, or who still
more wished to see him — the invitation being given
long beforehand in order better to secure all
parties — the whole fact would go out of his head,
and when the day came Gibson would serenely
congratulate himself that he had at length an
evening free. Nor did the conviction and disgrace
which was sure to ensue on the morrow in the
least disconcert him. How should it, when he
was perfectly content to own the worst — which
was that he had forgotten all about the matter.
It signified little to him that some of the dis-
appointed hosts were of the great of the land.
Nor was it less true that he would occasionally
post a letter, and in some instances to the highest
quarters, equally devoid of date, address, and
signature. In short, Gibson was always Gibson.
Yet it may be added in his own words, when
writing of a very pretty woman, * I forget names,
numbers, and places — ^but I never forget what is
In editing these memoirs of a dear old friend I
Purity of his Art 235
have not attempted to describe his works consecu-
tively — a list of their subjects and of the patrons
for whom they were executed is given at the end
of this volume. But my task would not be fulfilled
without attempting a slight analysis of the art to
which he devoted his entire affections. Nor could
I venture to discourse on Gibson's merits as a
sculptor single-handed. In what follows I am
guided by the opinions of those most competent
to judge, and mainly by those of one whom he
had educated to form a sound judgment even
The great charm of Mr. Gibson's art corre-
sponded with that of his own character — and that
charm was its purity. In that respect no modern
sculptor has approached him. Thorwaldsen's
works are admired most by some, as more directed
to human sympathy. It may be admitted that
the great Danish sculptor appealed more to the
heart than the head ; whereas Mr. Gibson's
works, if less sympathetic, are more intellectual,
and full of a refined beauty which Thorwaldsen
(except in his Mercury) never equalled. At the
same time the merit of great originality of inven-
tion does not belong to Mr. Gibson — ^his loveliest
things are classic myths translated into marble.
236 Life of y ohn Gibson.
Nor, though he was a real poet in feeling, can he
be said to have left a poem in marble like Thor-
waldsen's Night, which is the most exquisite poem
ever penned by the modelling tool. But Mr.
Gibson's knowledge of the human figure was
consummate — his taste exquisite and sure — ^his
feeling for drapery, his power of modelling it, and
his unwearied patience in obtaining the best dis-
position of the folds, were unapproachable. The
finest modem specimen of drapery is perhaps that
upon his Venus. (I venture to add that also upon
his Clemency, in the group of Her Majesty.)
With all his knowledge of anatomy and all his
experience in modelling, he seldom made a sketch
in clay eight inches high without the living model
before him. This serves to show what patience
and conscientious study he brought to his task.
His Hunter may be reckoned as his greatest
work. In this he is as original as powerful — in
this he comes nearest to the spirit as distinguished
from the style of the antique. He was v^ry fond
of his Venus, but he was proud of his Hunter.
He was very fond, too, of his Cupid with the
Butterfly — * Love tormenting the Soul' — the one
belonging to Mr. Holford — and for sentiment that
may be looked upon as one of the most exquisite
His Skill as a Draughtsman. 237
of his productions. His last group of Theseus
and the Robber, which had been in his mind for
years, is very grand. Had he lived to finish that,
it would have been his greatest achievement His
style has the antique charm — that is, great strength
and anatomical knowledge, with the most refined
and delicate beauty, perfect drawing, and nobility
His skill in bas-relief was especially great — ^here
again no living sculptor comes near him. The
bas-relief of the Hours leading the Horses of the
Sun, which, as has been seen, he modelled with
such delight and ardour, is in itself a sufficient
pedestal for his fame to rest on. His knowledge
of the laws which govern this department of
sculpture was profound. Hence his drawings,
which may be classed under the head of bas-reliefs,
are among the strongest evidences of his powers.
His skill as a draughtsman is possessed by no living
man. The original drawing of the Marriage Feast
of Cupid and Psyche, done some years before his
death, when his hand was firm as a rock, is match-
less. The outline looks as if it were engraved.
If a fellow-labourer in the art were to speak frankly
he would perhaps say Mr. Gibson's greatness lay
more in his wonderfully-executed drawings than in
238 Life of yohn Gibson.
his finished works — his drawings have a fire and
passion which his marble does not entirely translate.
For this reason in his iconic statues, where fire and
passion have no place, he is peculiarly grand. Of
these portrait monuments the first statue of Mr.
Huskisson, with the bare arm, may be said to be
the finest. The statue of Her Majesty, life size,
is also a most beautiful production.
In knowledge of the horse he stands pre-emi-
nent He gave great attention to the study of
this animal in the grand bas-reliefs at Wentworth,
and it is to be regretted that no equestrian statue
exists by his hand.
Gibson chose his subjects either from classic
story, or from incidents in real life which he
turned to account, as we have seen, under some
classic name. But late in life — beginning it in
1862 — he modelled a sacred subject, Christ bless-
ing little children. This was in the form of a
bas-relief He was anxious to show that he could
deal with such a group. He describes his feelings
in his own characteristic way in a letter to Mr.
Sandbach, for whom the work was executed.
* When I began to model the head of Christ, the
fear of failing came over me. I had to express the
Divine within, perceived through outward form —
A Christian Subject. 239
the form of man — elevated, beautiful, and be-
nevolent' This bas-relief shows that he could
rise to the conception of Christian art The
Divine head is full of pathos, and some of the
children beautifully felt A naked boy resisting
his mother's efforts to bring him to the Saviour
belongs to Gibson's Grecian part, and would have
been in place in an antique procession. His own
features and those of Mr. Sandbach are introduced
in two of the male figures.
I have said before, or rather Gibson has said
for himself, that he found entire happiness in his
art Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that
little tender temptations ever and anon assaulted
him. As late as i860 he wrote to one who
had observed symptoms more than usually re-
dolent of * the arrow of soft tribulations,' * That
bit of temptation at Liverpool glides round about
me, but some one will be beforehand with me
before I can make up my mind to give up Rome
for Liverpool ;' but he never really wavered. He
was not meant in any way for the cares and re-
sponsibilities of life, and he worked on all his days,
in his own words, * happily and with ever new
pleasure, avoiding evil, and with a calm soul —
making images, not for worship, but for the love
240 Life of y ohn Gibson.
of the beautiful. The beautiful elevates us above
the crowd in this world — the ideal, higher — ^yes —
higher still — to celestial beauty — the fountain of
all. Socrates said that outward beauty is the sign
of inward — in the life of a man, as in an image,
every part should be beautiful.'
Such sentiments as these, from whatever source,
were to Gibson a guiding reality. Would that all
lived as much up to their light as he !
At the same time the tributes of respect which
follow on fame, were, like Fame herself, never more
thoroughly enjoyed by any man than by this serene
and virtuous philosopher. The compliment paid to
him (and as was truly said to England too) by the
late King of Bavaria in placing his statue with
that of Thorwaldsen, Tenerani, and Ranch, on the
exterior of the Glyptothek, and in the Hall of the
Walhalla ; that other still more personal compli-
ment by Lord Lytton in the dedication of * Zanoni '
to him— human tributes of which any man might
be proud — ^were received by Gibson with a sim-
plicity of self-respect which lent them a higher
worth. The condescending kindness of Her
Majesty and of the noble Prince Consort — the
visits of the Prince of Wales and the Princess
Royal to Rome, and to his studio — their unfeigned
Summary of his Character, 241
pleasure in the company of one so fresh, artless,
and unembarrassed, shed real gladness into his
heart. Utterly unconventional himself he soon
dissipated the outer conventions of all who ap-
proached him. Etiquette was no more made for
him than for a child, and if ever transgressed by
him the fault was the result of a purer feeling
than such rules are meant to restrain.
I have said enough, I think, and have allowed
him to say enough for himself, to show the pure
and guileless, the truly Christian nature of the
man. As years passed on Gibson began to feel
their weight, though his hand knew no decline.
He left Rome regularly as the heat began — visited
England, Switzerland or the Tyrol — always return-
ing to Rome with comparatively renewed strength.
But more than once he had fallen unconscious in
his studio, though apparently rising again without
any perceptible decline of power. The summer
of 1864 had been spent chiefly at Leghorn by him
and his friend Mr. Penry Williams — not the best
place in July and August for bracing the nerves.
Switzerland had been their destination, but Gibson,
worn with heat and fatigue, stuck fast at Leghorn.
He writes to Miss Lloyd, * I am surprised at my-
self for not having continued on to Switzerland.
242 Life of John Gibson,
Williams should have insisted, but he did not If
you or Miss Hosmer had been in charge of us you
would have pushed us on. I do say that a woman
is a useful thing in this world, for she gives good
advice/ In 1865 again, although he crossed the
Alps to Lucerne, the weather was most unfavour-
able, and the two friends turned back to the Lago
Maggiore. Perhaps the absence of more invigo-
rating air for these two successive summers was
unfortunate. However, the time for departure
was come. After visiting, with Mr. Penry Wil-
liams, a sick room at Milan — the last time I saw
him — he returned to Rome in October, feeling
particularly well, and resumed his usual labours.
On the 9th of January 1866, when apparently in
perfect health, he was seized with paralysis. He
had shortly before received the tidings of the
death of Sir Charles Eastlake, which, it is believed,
expedited the fatal blow. A second and a third
stroke deprived him of speech. When a telegram
from Her Majesty enquiring for him, and exprless-
ing regret at hearing of his illness, was conveyed to
him by Mr. Odo Russell, he was still conscious. He
lifted his hand as far as he could, the paper was put
into it, and he held it firmly. It was the last thing
that roused him. One who was present thus
His Death, 243
wrote, * I hope Her Majesty has been told how he
felt her gracious kindness.' The same writer
adds, 'Very early on the morning of his death
Miss Lloyd and I were summoned hastily to his
room. Good Miss Lloyd remained with him to
the last, but I left a kiss on his forehead and came
away. Oh ! how cold and drear the stars looked
that morning as I walked slowly home! I saw
the Master a moment after death. How grand
and calm, and beautiful the face wasl Then I
left Rome for a time. One of my best friends
was taken from me when the Master died.'
John Gibson died on the 27th of January 1866
— and lies in the English cemetery at Rome.
Having been decorated with the cross of the
Legion of Honour, a company of French soldiers
with muffled drums, formed part of the funeral
procession, and fired a salute over the grave.
The last words he penned were to me. I shall
be forgiven for allowing the reader to peruse this
pathetic fragment — at once the last page in
Gibson's history, and a tribute to him who had
left this world little more than a month before.
* My dear Lady Eastlake, — Ever since that sad
hour when I received your letter my spirit has
244 ^^fo of John Gibson
been oppressed by the intelligence of the great
loss you have sustained — the loss of your most
affectionate one — one so eminent for his talent
and worth. How honourable and just he was in
all the actions of his life ! Yes — dear Lady East-
lake, I do sympathise deeply with you. I am one
of the many who mourn over this sad event
' As time rolled on I felt deeper and deeper In
his debt — it was he brought me forth to the
patronage of the Prince and Queen — and also to
the Royal Academy.
* Sir Charles' best works will always be admired
for their beauty and refined taste by all who
have real knowledge of the great masters. You
contributed greatly to the happiness of his life;
by your knowledge of art— by your affectionate
Mr. Gibson had no near relations except his
brother Solomon, for whom he had amply pro-
vided.* His thoughts therefore turned to his
own country, and to the Academy of which he
* Mr. Solomon Gibson, hearing of the illness of his brother,
started immediately from Liverpool, where he resided, in order to
see him. He was unaccompanied, and never reached Rome. At
Paris, entering an hotel, he fell doWn dead. His death took place
a few days before that of his brother.
Letter to Sir Charles L. East lake. 245
felt himself proud to be a member. He wrote
thus in 1864 to Sir Charles Eastlake, as President
of that body.
* My renowned master Canova left in his will the
models of some of his works to the Academy of his
own country. Thorwaldsen left all his models to
his sovereign and country, with the principal
amount of his money. They are arranged and
seen by the public of his own country. It is this
fact that has induced me to venture to make an
offer to leave in my will all the models of my works
executed in marble, with the chief part of my for-
tune, to the Royal Academy. In my offer to the
Academy the sum of money which I have named
is presented with the collection of the models in
plaster, on condition that space be provided to
arrange them in — that they may be seen during
Exhibition days by the public.
' I will also express without fear of being con-
sidered presumptuous that these works of mine —
the labour of forty-six years of study and practice
under the instruction for five years of Canova,
and, after his death, of Thorwaldsen, and at the
same time surrounded by able rivals from different
nations — ^yes — I do feel that the collection of my
models seen together would be of use to the
young sculptors as to style.'
246 Life of y ohn Gibson.
It is almost needless to say that this offer, upon
the conditions stated, was joyfully accepted at a
general meeting of the Academy.
By his will, therefore, as it ultimately stood,
Mr. Gibson left his entire fortune to the Royal
Academy — legacies of a small amount to friends,
excepted — together with the contents of his
studio. These include not merely casts from all
his works, and models in plaster of various de-
signs not executed in marble, but also the grand
and nearly finished group of Theseus and the
Robber left in clay, and cast after his death ; with
his original statue of Bacchus in marble, and
several replicas in marble from other statues.
Also his book of original designs.
I am permitted to add that, as soon as arrange-
ments can be made, these works, embodying the
entire course of the great Sculptor's art, will be
placed in Old Burlington House, and made
available at all times for public inspection.
A simple monument of a Greek character is
erected over Gibson's grave, bearing a medallion
profile of his fine head, and with the following
inscription from the pen of Lord Lytton.
Inscription on his Monument 247
TO THE MEMORY OF
JOHN GIBSON, SCULPTOR, R.A.
BORN AT CONWAY 19"^" JUNE, 179O, DIED AT ROME, WHERE HE HAD
RESIDED 48 YEARS, 27^" JAN\, 1866.
HIS NATIVE GENIUS STRENGTHENED BY CAREFUL STUDY,
HE INFUSED THE SPIRIT OF GRECIAN ART
INTO MASTERPIECES ALL HIS OWN.
HIS CHARACTER AS A MAN WAS IN UNISON
WITH HIS ATTRIBUTES AS AN ARTIST,
BEAUTIFUL IN ITS SIMPLICITY AND TRUTHFULNESS,
NOBLE IN ITS DIGNITY AND ELEVATION.
A monument was also raised to Gibson in the
church at Conway. This was done by a sub-
scription limited to a few friends, among whom
appears the name of the Prince of Wales.
Mr. Gibson was member of most of the prin-
cipal Academies of Art, the diplomas of which
have been consigned to the Royal Academy.
The Prussian order of Full Merit arrived just
after his death.
A fine portrait of him by the hand of Mr.
Boxall, R.A., belongs to the Gallery of Diploma
Works in the Royal Academy. Two portraits of
248 Life of y ohn Gibson.
him were painted by Mr. Penry Williams. The
one, taken at an early period of his residence in
Rome, was presented to the Academy of St.
Luke; the other, painted in 1865, to that of
Urbino. The first of these two portraits has
been engraved by Wagstaff, The best bust of
him was modelled by Mr. Theed, from which the
profile outline, heading this work, is taken.
LIST OF WORKS EXECUTED AT ROME*
JOHN GIBSON, R.A.
Her Majesty the Queen
between Justice and
Mars and Cupid .
Physche borne by Ze-
Hylas surprised by
Hunter and Dog .
at Gibson's death)
Nymph kissing Cupid
Repetition, tinted .
Wounded Warrior tend-
ed by Female figure
• (unfinished at Gib-
Duke of Devonshire .
Sir George Beaumont .
Prince Torlonia •
Present Emperor of
R. Vernon, Esq. '.
Henry Sandbach, Esq.
Mr. Clare .
John Malcolm, Esq. .
W. R. Sandbach, Esq.
Prince of Wales ,
Palace of West-
10 Prince's Gate,
* This list is unavoidably incomplete, and does not pretend to be chronological.
List of Works by
Cupid tormenting the
Repetition, tinted .
Cupid disguised as a
Repetition . .
Nymph at the Bath
G. Watson Taylor, Esq.,
Lord Geo. Cavendish.
Duke of Northumber-
Mr. Lennox .
R. Yates, Esq.
R. S. Holford, Esq. .
Sir John Johnstone ,
Present Emperor of
Right Hon. Sir Robert
— Collingwood, Esq.
Lord Crewe .
R. Allison, Esq. .
Henry Famham, Esq. .
Abel Bulkley, Esq., Jun.
Earl of Yarborough.
Patteson EUames, Esq.
— Williams, Esq.
R. Allison, Esq. .
— Fort, Esq.
— Errington, Esq.
in possession of
Boston, U. S.
Philadelphia, U. S.
Presented to Royal
STATUES — continued.
Repetition, on a
Dancing Nymph with
Pysche carrying a Cake
Nymph kissing Cupid
Mr. Ablett .
Dwarkanauth Tagore .
Marquis of Sligo,
M. Uzzielli, Esq.
Prince of Wales .
Marquis of Westmin-
H. Sandbachy Esq.
Lady Marian Alford.
— Penn, Esq.
Howard Galton, Esq.
Sir Francis Goldsmid,
Bart, M. P.
Sir W. W. Wynn.
— Stirling, Esq.
Llanbedr Hall, Nth.
Eaton Hall, Che-
Mossley Hill, Liver-
St. John's Lodge,
St. James's Square,
List of Works by
Her Majesty the Queen . ,
Countess Dowager of Beauchamp, tinted
Right Honourable Sir Robert Peel
Right Honourable William Huskisson
Another statue of the same .
Lloyd's, Royal Exchange,
Repetition, in bronze • • • .
Van Mildert, Bishop of Durham .
Front of Custom House,
St George's Hall, Liverpool
Kirkman Finlay, Esq., M.P.
Dudley North, Esq., M.P.
Two busts of Her Majesty.
One bust of H. R. H. Princess of Wales
Wm. Roscoe, Esq.
Watson Taylor, Esq., M.P.
Mrs. Watson Taylor.
Duchess of Wellington.
Mrs. Henry Sandbach.
Mr. Henry Sandbach.
Sir Charles L. Eastlake.
Sir Charles LyelL
Luisa — * a Sabine Woman.'
Rt. Hon. Ed. Cardwell, M.P.
John Lloyd Wynne, Esq.
The Hours leading the
Horses of the Sun
Earl Fitzwilliam .
Phaeton driving • the
Chariot of the Sun
Same « . «
Juno conducting Hyp-
nos to Jupiter
Meeting of Hero and
Duke of Devonshire .
Maniage of Psyche
and Celestial Love
Duke of Northumber-
Cupid pursuing Psyche
Duke of Northumber-
Henry Sandbach, Esq.
rwst, N. Wales.
Amalthea nursing the
Earl of Carlisle • <
Wounded Amazon and
Mrs* Huskisson .
Cupid and Psyche
Same • • •
Venus and Cupid
Mafquis of Abercorn.
Howard Gallon, Esq. .
Amazon on Ground,
dragged by her horse.
Same • «- • .
Minerva bringing Pega-
sus to Bellerophon
C. S. Dickens, Esq.
Eros and Anteros con-
tending for the Soul
Christ blessing little
H* Sandbach, Esq. *
Eros and Aphrodite.
Zephyrus and Psyche.
List of Works by
BASSI RILIEVI: MONUMENTAL.
Justice protecting Innocence. In
memory of Thomas Earle, Esq.
William Earle, Esq., seated, reading the
Figure of Hope. In memory of Mr. and
Mrs. E. Roscoe
An Angel consoling Wife and two Child-
ren. In memory of Eyre Coote, Esq.
A Husband mourning over his dying
Wife, with an Infant in his arms. In
memory of Mrs. Byrom
Figure of Blundell Holinshed, Esq.,
accompanied by Guardian Angel
An Act of Charity. In memory of —
Seated Figure. In memory of Mrs.
Angel carrying Infant, and leading the
Mother to Heaven. In memory of
Countess of Leicester.
Angel receiving the Spirit In memory
of Mrs. Pigott.
Portrait figure of Mrs. Henry Sandbach.
In memory of her.
Angel receiving the Spirit In memory
of Lady Knightley.
Angel descending to the Dying. In
memory of Mrs. Cheney.
Mrs. Huskisson kneeling, angel descend-
Mr. Westcar. In memory of him.
Angel plucking Flowers. In memory of
four Bonomi Children who died in
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel.
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel.
Liverpool Unitarian Chapel.
Daresbury Church, near War-
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel.
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel.
Liverpool Cemetery Chapel.
yohtt Gibson. 255
MODELS IN PLASTER.
(Chiefly belonging to the Royal Academy.)
Eteocles and Polynices ; Jocasta intervening.
Birth of Venus ; received by Celestial Love, and crowned by Persuasion.
Cupid wounding Sappho.
Venus and Cupid appearing to Sappho to console her.
Love and Idleness.
Psyche receiving nectar from Hebe, in the presence of Celestial Love.
CEnone : Shepherdess deserted by Paris.
Love between Beauty and Fortune.
The Death of Hippolytus.
Wounded Warrior, and Female tending his wound.
Theseus and Robber,
Clay Sketch, on smaller scale, of Theseus and Robber. (Belonging to
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